Poetry by Hugh McMillan


In the square  

is a giant tree 

hung with lights.

Through the branches

a blood moon 

has come 

and gone,

and now 

a chain smoking 

player rasps 

a wonderful song.

The man next to me 

has teeth

dark with wine.

It is about a man

who leaves

his suitcase 

in a cupboard,

he says.

Under the tree 

an English girl 

is weeping,

she has anxieties,

while a step away

a man is 

slapping a child 

hard on the thigh.


says my friend 


the bottle, 

they are about love.

The Nature of Art

Art was always a thing in our house
or artiness: we were thought of
as bohemians,

had the qualifications: 
poverty, scandal, a frisson of madness.
My father, stuck in rage and guilt 

wrote a short story about a soldier 
in a desert stuck in rage and guilt
and painted birds that could not fly.

My sister drew a landscape 
she walked into.
I wrote a poem about snow 

that never fell, filled gaps like that 
with empty words.
My mother tore a photograph 

of the MV Columba from a brochure
or the People’s Friend ,
stuck it on the wall,

with sellotape that yellowed 
as the years passed, 
wished she was there.

About the contributor

Hugh McMillan is from Dumfries and Galloway. He won the Callum MacDonald Prize in May 2017. In the last six months he was chosen as one of the half dozen poets whose work featured in a National Poetry Day postcard. His selected poems ‘Not Actually being in Dumfries’ was published by Luath in 2015.

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