COMMENTARIES ON COLIN JAMES
The Healing Properties Of Milk
This poem appealed to me – revving up the wheels of my imagination. I have written several continuations to this poem in invisible ink and will probably continue to do so for some time. I believe Colin did something quite extraordinary in these eight lines. With a Scotsman for a father, I experienced something primal while reading them. I want those relatives. I long to see them “regaling in the wearing of the plaid.” And oh, those white socks! Do they possess the healing properties of milk? Perhaps. We'll have to ask Colin about that.
- BARBARA MOORE
An enigma is a perplexing speech or text, according to the Free Online dictionary. It may be a riddle, it may be a puzzle, it may contradict. And furthermore, it may soothe as it casts the smallest dark shadow. In this taut, textured poem, one imagines the little boy, banished to the cellar for a punishment. The revelry he knows well. He hears it above him, less for the wedding or ceremonial event than simply the gathering of the family's men, the wearing of the plaid more metaphor than fact; the solidarity of robust kinship denied to him, and thus the yearning. Some works pay homage to "show, don't tell," and here, in The Healing Properties of Milk, superlatively so. The essential details are enough, and the rush of what is depicted by far-ranging flashes of color that begin in the sooty cellar, the weak gray daylight holding steady on a chilly Highland late afternoon; white socks the everyday, not breeches, and but one tartan – red, maybe blue-green – among a million plaids, to herald the family name. The child is not counted out, but still isolated; he is soothed when Mother brings the frothy milk; don't fret, she says, they're not leaving you behind.