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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Caiplie Caves


Karen Solie

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Where should we find consolation,

dwelling in the north? Amid the stunted

desperate plant life clinging

to its edges, thriving on atmospheric

vengeance or neglect? Of two moods,

fragile and invasive, it gazes out to sea

as its character bends inland.

And why defend our poignant attempts

at agriculture, the gall

of our entrepreneurs? The defining

mid-winter pageants performed

in a somnolent rage? The leisure class

commends the virtues of hard work

above all else, and we labour under

frost-cramped statutes, the black

letters of legislation, in hog-reek

and land-driven slag, middle-aged

from birth and, given our devotion

to slandering this place, illogically

xenophobic. We could as soon move

south as rise above it. Are sympathies

inseparable from what one does

to stay alive? What is a self

but that which fights the cold?


Gulls up at dawn with swords and shields,

if dawn only in low season, in the week

we can afford. My love, who negotiated with a Silk Cut

in his wheel hand the unfamiliar roundabout

to the A915 at Kirkcaldy, sweeps droppings

from the paved deck like an owner, with his whole heart.

He grew old not thinking about himself.

So it follows our vacation home is not ours, but let

by the company on certain conditions, for certain uses

pertaining to a quiet enjoyment of sea views

beyond the lower lots, signed-for with the understanding

our initiative shall likewise be applied

at the company’s discretion.

The dogs we don’t have must be leashed, our wireless

fee charged daily. Here is the rent reminding

tenants they don’t own, interest confirming

for the borrower to whom the principal belongs.

Here is the insurance to tell us we’re not

safe, and here is the loophole which allows it

to not pay. The week he’s scraped together is now his.

My old man, who raises his spirit like a lamp,

collects Stella cans tossed from the raceway

down the hill overwritten with gorse and cow parsley;

and who, discovering the bulb beside the door

burnt out, will, cursing happily, replace it with the spare

I laughed at him for stowing in the glove box.

Copyright © 2019 by Karen Solie