Stanzas one to three

The opening lines of the poem immediately establish the evocative setting of a cold, bleak January Saturday in Glasgow as the speaker and her partner make their way to the famous Barrows flea market.

A shop at the Barras
A shop at the Barras

The poem is written as an address to her partner, as though she is encouraging him to recall the memory.

The atmosphere is tense as police horses twitch and fret. Having forgotten the early kick-off time of a football match means that the couple are pushing against the wave of supporters.

These ugly losers/getting ready to let fly add to the unpredictable and tense mood. The two rivers refers both literally to the River Clyde and the river of football fans making their way through the Gallowgate from Celtic Park.

In the second stanza, a hint of the deeper subject of the poem is introduced in the lines January, and we’re/looking back/looking forward/don’t know which way.

The brevity and isolation of these lines contrasts with the atmospheric previous stanza.

The decision not to punctuate the line and give it grammatical sense, but to run on to the subject of the next stanza highlights the speaker’s uncertainty about the state of her relationship.

The New Year is always a time when we reflect about the past and anticipate the year to come. It seems the speaker has cause to question the future of her relationship.

The reflective mood of the second stanza in interrupted in the third. The speaker is pulled out of her reverie by the sales patter of a stallholder selling beautiful Bakelite/Bush radios.

Lochhead captures the voice of the seller through the use of alliteration and the layout. The deliberate gaps in the line doesn’t miss a beat sing along it’s easy, changes the meter of the poem as the stallholder speaks in time to the rhythm of the music.

Specificity of details like this adds to the texture and authenticity of Lochhead’s work to create really lasting and memorable images.