Introducing the June 2010 Readers – 1. David Kinloch

David Kinloch is from Glasgow. A former teacher of French, he now teaches English and Scottish Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde. His previous collections are: Dustie-fute (Vennel Press, London, 1992), Paris-Forfar (Polygon, Edinburgh, 1994), Un Tour d’Ecosse (Carcanet, Manchester, 2001) and In My Father’s House (Carcanet, Manchester, 2005). His next collection, Finger of a Frenchman, will be published by Carcanet in 2011.

Rousseau on Ramsay

The pelisse? The furs? The hat?
The Armenian coat? At Ramsay’s
suggestion? That king copying colonizer?
My ‘companion piece’, Hume?
That turtle-eating, pensioned, imperial
alderman, tacitly propped-up on Tacitus?
Hume, is that you in the mirror
on the opposite wall
where I can take you in at my ease?
Is that you, Hume, ready to patronise,
ready to shepherd me out of
or into the dark?
Why are my bowels so sunk in shadow?
To suggest -by inversion- my kidney
complaint? The drizzle of pee matting
the lining that hides a forked body?
Why is the light like an eye that
eats at my face, that pokes out my eyes
and makes me a Cyclops?
Why has he posed me – or did I request
it?- as in a self-portrait, half-
turned towards you? How dare
he confess me, place my frail finger
over my heart? My heart, my eyes?
Is this all there is of me? Is it to make me
easy to copy? So he can sell me like
‘petits pains’? Can’t he tie me together
or down with his daubs, see into the I,
his brush like the lace of memory
just touching and veiling a void?
Who gazes at me with such intensity?
Where am I? Hello? Out there,
you? Is that an ‘aye’ I can hear?
Hume, are you there? Or the artist even?
Is it evening now? Is it only I
that can answer these questions?

Allan Ramsay’s twin portraits of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and David Hume hung in Hume’s living room until the philosopher’s death despite their famous quarrel.

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