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last update:
15 Feb19

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Red Rebecca

     (A Song of the Hebrides)
That black pig McLeod
shat in my water.
All my bairns drank it.
It was the death of my daughter.
My wee white hen Camille
strayed over on his croft.
He took to her with a hatchet.
No more eggs in my hen loft.
They call me Red Rebecca
because I’m consumed with rage.
I do my work, I tend the beasts.
Forgiveness I cannae manage.
That long streak of piss McIver
took the books with me on Monday.
Down on his knobbly knees on the floor
as if I didnae keep the kirk on Sunday.
Praying to scare the Red from me!
He’s away with a flea in his ear
(as well as mud, and worse, on his trousers)
to give McLeod a taste of the fear.
My milking coo took sick and died
and I just knew who it was killed her,
black-hearted heathen that he is
and wicked his tongue that felled her.
I’d eaten poor headless Camille
and I buried my daughter that died.
When I gutted fair Elspeth the coo
that was the day I cried.
My man told me to haud my wheesht!
What with him in a constant gloom,
Piety McIver wringing his hands
and old Mad Margaret prophesying doom,
I saw red. I SAW RED. Went haring up the hill
swinging my new whetted cleavers
and in his filthy midden of a hoose
I sliced that pig into rashers.
Floor awash, walls spattered,
myself dyed red with his blood,
they call me Red Rebecca
because I did for that pig McLeod.
The Minister wailing and weeping
thundering out warnings of Hell
turned the whole kirk against me
with a Shunning: candle, book and bell.
But I don’t give a rat’s arse about them,
I’m for an orgy of hating,
watching black McLeod on a spit
turning and turning to bacon.
They call me Red Rebecca
for the flames of Hell – as if they matter.
The one thing I know is: anything’s better
than that black pig McLeod’s
shit in my water.
     In a Hebridean village the crofts were often placed one above the other by the side of a burn which provided them with water. Children died of typhoid because they drank water fouled by people who lived further up the hill.
     The reference to the Minister is to the Wee Frees, an extreme Protestant sect which converted the islands in the 19th century.
     The blackhouses accommodated both people and animals with only a flimsy partition between them.

Rosemary McLeish

placed in Mslexia/PBS Poetry Competition 2018;
published in Mslexia 80, Dec18-Feb19, ISSN 2059-5514