My graandmidder’s haands
I hae my graandmidder’s haands,
an we wid lay dem side by side
an look at fingers, joints an nails
an she wid smile
an say da sken wis different
an say I hed nae rings
an I wid coont her scars.
Her haands wis never idle
an mine is never been.
Da sken apo my haands is come
ta look da sam as hers.
Da varg o möld an mödoo,
da rig, da stack, da yard,
da mylkin an da kirnin,
da blotts o watter haet an cowld,
da wringin an da renshin,
da boilin an da rostin,
an even when you’re sittin, never restin
but mackin, always mackin -
her haands wis never idle,
an nedder yet is mine.
As winter days comes on wi caald an frost
my finger joints’ll crack.
Dey’re swalled noo just da sam as her eens wis,
when she wis comin aald.
Though him at gae me it is lang awa
my haand’ll no gie up his ring.
Da finger swalled ta keep it in its place.
It plaises me.
Aroond me noo, a multitude o haands
aa vargin on tagidder.
A faimily an a neeboreed o haands
though few sae aald as mine.
Der haands ta wirk (an haands ta mak adö!)
an haands ta mak a bannock or a hap,
a kishie or a coffin.
An haands ta play a tune,
an haands ta hadd.
She staands afore my een, my graandmidder
da day dey laid her oot.
Da face wis closed an unkan; she wis gone.
Da haands wis still da sam.
Dey could a kerried on.
varg – hard work
möld – soil or peat
mödoo – hay meadow
renshin – rinsing
mackin – knitting
ta mak adö! – make a pretence!
staands afore my een – I can clearly picture her
© Laureen Johnson 2009
First in stage production ‘Circles and Tides’, Skeklers Theatre Company, 2002.
Read the New Shetlander for the best of Shetland writing:
Contact: The New Shetlander,
SCSS, Market House, Market Street, Lerwick ZE1 0JP.
Tel. +44 (0) 1595 743 902,
Fax. +44 (0)1595 696787,
Annual subscription rates (4 issues):
Overseas airmail £16.60