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'Fail them, and I will rise': Kathleen Jamie's poem after COP26

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Scotland’s new makar Kathleen Jamie has written a poem to mark the end of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. Titled ‘What the Clyde said, after COP26’, it refers to the river’s industrial heritage, before lamenting the “storm rains”, and the fact that it has turned into “a poisoned chalice”. It concludes by championing the protests of the young. Here’s the poem:



by Kathleen Jamie


I keep the heid. I’m cool.

If asked - but you never ask -

I’d answer in tongues

hinting of linns, of Leven,

Nethan, Kelvin, Cart -

but neutral, balancing

both banks equally as I flow...


Do I judge? I mind the hammer-swing,

the welders’ flash, the heavy

steel-built hulls I bore downstream

from my city, and maybe

I was a blether-skite then,

a wee bit full of myself,

when we seemed gey near unstoppable...


But how can I stomach any more

of these storm rains? How can I

slip quietly away to meet my lover,

the wide-armed Ocean, knowing

I’m a poisoned chalice 

she must drain, drinking

everything you chuck away...


So these days, I’m a listener, aye.

Think of me as a long level

liquid ear gliding slowly by. 

I heard the world’s words, 

the pleas of peoples born

where my ships once sailed,

I heard the beautiful promises...


and, sure, I’m a river,

but I can take a side.

From this day, I’d rather keep afloat,

like wee folded paper boats,

the hopes of the young folk

chanting at my bank,

fear in their spring-bright eyes


so hear this:

                fail them, and I will rise.



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John F Keane

Thu 18th Nov 2021 13:36

Beautiful piece.

Pity nothing will be done but hey ho, that's the way it goes.

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