2007 - 2021

Poem – ‘There are worse things to be than small and free’

imageAt Bellacaledonia we love our poetry and the opportunity to share with you new work that we feel displays the diversity coming out of Scotland. Either written by those from Scotland or who have come to make it their home, we are honoured to share with you written work we think demonstrates the national mood.

This poem by Orla ní Dhúill, an Irish poet, feminist and activist based in Edinburgh.


What does it mean to be small and independent?
I’m only 5’ 3’’ and depending on the day people still listen to me.

See that I’m small and independent but exactly the right size for my internal organs,
Despite warnings against getting too big or worries I’m getting too thin.

In small there is still space to be welcoming,
Not about who we’re letting in, but what we’re letting them in to

So my garden may be small but I know where the soil drains best
Where the south-west evening sun hits the back wall

All them in the RHS down in Devon and Kent can say that April is the last frost date
But we know it can be as late as May

Say the geraniums are fine to plant out now
But you can’t see what these hills can do from down there

There will always be those who think your ownership of yourself
Is against common sense, it’s not safe to go alone take a protectorate role

Told growing flowers is for girls by same fools
Who don’t know how to use a spade, or get their hands dirty

Surely imperfection is inevitable, but with independence
There is space for the smallest garden to grow without imposing on any indentured host

Most of all I would like to live in that promise of work,
Where the world shapes many a better nation.

Comments (5)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Alf Baird says:

    I take from this this, that there are still too many weeds in Scotland’s garden, preventing our nation from naturally flowering, and generally doing as weeds do, i.e. ‘cumbering the ground (and) hindering the growth of superior vegetation’.

    1. O ND says:

      Weeds are just flowers you didn’t plant. There the most natural thing of all. Not sure there are superior plants. I understand you meant this metaphorically, but the metaphor troubles me a little.

      1. Haideng says:

        Huh, tell that to my neighbour and her on going battle with Japanese knot Weed or whatever it’s called.

  2. Fay Kennedy. says:

    That is the great thing about words they depend so much on context and who’s speaking.

  3. Patrick says:

    The grandeur of the small.
    Life begins with a spermatozoid.
    The mageness of a pine seems a mystery when we look at its seed.
    In the evenings despite the beauty of the moon, seeing the stars is more emanating.
    The power of an ant, does not exceed by a Caterpillar.
    If it were not for a tugboat, landing a tanker would be almost impossible.
    Knowing the content of a drop of water allows us to know a river and even the ocean itself.
    The value of a penny, we do not value it until we collect 100 of them.
    With a spike of wheat we can make a cookie.
    If it were not for the Phantom, life in the oceans would be paralyzed.
    With the energy of an atom, you can travel thousands of millions of years through the universe.
    A simple and small kiss can unleash a storm of passions.
    In a single cell is written the whole history of humanity.
    Nothing that Napoleon had already said: It is better to be the head of a mouse, than the tail of a lion.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.