Northwords Now

New writing, fresh from Scotland and the wider North
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Rib wort plantain

by Beth McDonough

Before I grew old enough to skip
outside school, chant 'Mary, Queen of Scots
got her HEAD CHOPPED OFF', I'd learn games from Gran.

She'd indulge my west coast Doric to the road end,
lift the wooden boxy's two plank lid, hinged
with leather straps. She crooked new bottled milk,

quick replaced with clanky empty glass.
Gran would nod 'We cud aye play Carol-Doddies',
picking a tall plantain bud apiece. I gripped mine

in a wee tight fist. We stood square on,
and hit, and hit and hit and HIT the neck in turns,
until one broke the other's stem to win.

How many years in full-sized shoes, before I knew
how casually country children liked
to decapitate our half-forgotten monarchs?

Gran never told me this. Our interest moved
to a different plant, leafed with darker spots.
'Christ's blood', she smiled. 'Dropping from the Cross'.

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