Each year the Scottish Poetry Library assembles its Best Scottish Poems online anthology, an annual reminder of the strength of Scotland’s verse that mixes seasoned voices with emerging talent.
Best Scottish Poems 2012 was chosen by novelists Louise Welsh and Zoe Strachan, their choices finding room for Liz Lochhead, Kathleen Jamie, and Robin Robertson, as well as younger poets who will be stars of the future. Maggie Rabatski’s ‘Sacrifice/Ìobairt’ originally appeared in her collection Holding (New Voices Press) and harks back to her childhood; Rabatski grew up in a rural community of Harris, and recalls the injustice of separating a mother from her new-born calf in order to preserve her milk..
And this was known as the milk room,
the coldest room in the cool house.
There, on a paint-stained table,
jugs and bowls and basins of milk
in all the stages of turning—
cream, butter, crowdie.
An absence of sun on the green lino,
the narrow north window
with a view of hill-slope
where the giver of this bounty
Year after year
they took her calf away
after the first suckling;
she bellowed the loss for days,
through the wall his thin crying,
the birth-right of his soft, warm mouth
curdling in this cold room.