Keith Armstrong



Stella of Rose Street


(in memory of Stella Cartwright, 1937-1985)


“Dear George, it is so strange, our souls seem to fly together joyously over mountains and seas while each of us in our mutual way suffers agonies.”

(Stella Cartwright)


"An orgasm with Miss Cartwright was metaphysical, transcendental, like nothing else you can ever imagine. She seemed built for love."

(Stanley Roger Green)


“You placed me on a pedestal / according to my lights / but what you didn’t know, my dear / I have no head for heights.”

(Norman MacCaig)



It was so much gabble,

fantasies of genius in the Little Kremlin.

Once, I fell for it myself,

tottering along the red carpet,

poetry dribbling into my own vomit,

or maybe it was Hugh’s,

all mixed up

in the whisky of empty promises.


I talked in Milne’s Bar to a shop steward

who’d help build MacDiarmid’s bog.

He said the workmen had their tea in Grieve’s posh wee cups

and saw the reckoning in the leaves.

He yapped as auld poets glowered from their photos

and we downed chilled ale

to drown the memories of a Juniper Green girl

with a pint of that Muse again.


They must have seen joy in you our Stella

to wrench them from their word play,

to take a lovely shag to brighten up their anxious lines.

Och the happiness and the pain

of drinking

that smiler with the knife

come to get us all.

And that lonely honey George

must have driven you nuts

romancing you in the Pentland Hills

and kissing you full on your lips

one damp Saturday afternoon

by the Water of Leith.


They say ‘the best poem is silence’

but you were a shriek in the ecstasy

of loving and of agony,

a naked drunken howl.

The saintly saviour of hurt animals

and a shopper for the sick,

you wanted to wrap yourself around

something you could trust,

wanted a photograph of a true poetry lover

held to your lovely breasts

to make a change from the piss

of Milne’s Bar

and the daily Abbotsford drivel.


What you found was madness in a Zimmer Frame at thirty,

splashes of alcohol and tears lit

by the sudden flashes of beautiful orgasms,

the sunshine today

in all the muck

along Rose Street.



Keith Armstrong © 2017