What I Might Say, When I May Say It

Rachel McCrum & Ryan Van Winkle


Says Rachel: How a poem sounds is important to me; my way back to writing had been via a lot of readings in Edinburgh, and for me, every phrase or line has to sound just right before it goes to paper. When I started to write this with Ryan, I could hear his voice, his damn distinctive reading voice with all those big honeyed cadences playing in my head, and I found myself wanting to resist it. Clip it back. I was worried whose voice was speaking, whose story being told, what sense was (not) being made.Rachel McCrum

Turned out that I don’t think that matters. Turned out to be more fun playing with it, seeing which lines could give a little, tease a bit, and which ones wanted to stand firm. Where it took itself. What it’s about – we both have an idea, and maybe we will talk about that someday. I think it’s the same idea. To me, that it started to get written just after the Referendum had failed (can we say failed?) and how people dealt with their grief from the result, is significant. But, also, just for the writing of it – thanks for the dance.




What I Might Say, When I May Say It


It is always tempting to imagine
what my father felt when I landed
in his arms or what I might say
when a friend dies


how I might arrange myself
or how I might be stoic
with thick strength
or how I might howl myself


– and you, rigid –
or how my voice might crack
in all the right places
and never squeak or snot


how I might bask in thoughts of syrup
some slow elastic sweetness
never too hot or too cold
but just right, just right.




And it is tempting to break
when they say ‘crack –
it will let the light in’.
That old drone, one hopes


will smooth our ire
to a healthy varnish.
One hopes we might
remember the mountains


and how they looked so far
until we rolled on them. How
nanna was a Moore girl
and she gave good wood


out amongst the birch. Tempting
to trace old lines over
before we remember how
our landscapes were always


different, that my folks came
from salt. But still we hold
our forks the exact same way, that
we may recall, when the time comes,


the same rough supple shapes
of their hands. All we might
be able to say when time
creaks closed and we must speak.



About Rachel

Rachel landed in Edinburgh in the spring of 2010, via Manchester, Belfast, New Zealand, Oxford and a small seaside town in Northern Ireland. She wholly blames the Forest Cafe for the joy she is currently living with writing, performing, collaborating and organising poetry events in Scotland. It cost her a PhD but that hadn’t been a good idea anyway. Her first pamphlet ‘The Glassblower Dances‘ won the 2013 Callum Macdonald Award, as a result of which she spent two weeks as the Michael Marks Poet in Residence at the Harvard Centre for Hellenic Studies in Nafplion, Greece. In spring 2014, she spent two weeks in South Africa as one of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Commonwealth Poets United. With poet Jenny Lindsay, she runs Rally & Broad, a regular cabaret of poetry, music and lyrical delight in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other places.


Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

Inspired by  SJ Fowler‘s  ‘Camarade’ project which pairs poets to create new work, I’ve stolen the notion and begun to collaborate with friends and writers of interest. You can read about the project and see 2013’s poems here.