Friday Night — and one by one
the taxis bring the partygoers home.
And on the stairs, the footsteps and
the laughter of ascending neighbours
pass the door.
I lie here, in the dark
and try to bring to my mind’s eye
their faces — the only one I see
I wonder where you are
right now, and whether you are on
the stairs of some old tenement,
your own or someone else’s.
Do you lie,
like me, alone? Too busy or too tired
for gallivanting — too stressed, too insecure
to feel relaxed in lovers’ company?
The day dawns grey with intermittent showers:
the Mela holds me for but a couple of hours
but back on Princes Street the sun shines warm,
and, after wandering lonely ‘mid the flowers
in the painted gardens of Monet and Co,
I find me a seat for a much-needed drink
and watch the folks in the gardens below.
I wonder why two people sharing my bench
and talking in German have a guide book in French;
it’s odd things like that that can make a man think —
now they’re going and I’ll never know
Some guy dips two sticks in a bucket
pulls them out and then slowly apart
in the loop of soft rope, now coated with soap
forms a bubble, a rainbow-hued heart
shape, which sparkles and shines,
drawing gasps from the small crowd of kids.
A bubble that grand, that beautiful,
cannot sustain itself — it bursts
and showers us with soapy drizzle —
too obvious a metaphor, methinks.
“It’s something that I dream of”, says a tall
and bearded guy from North America.
He passes by, is gone; that’s all I hear,
that’s all I know; and yet I really hope
his dream comes true. The clouds return
A cold spring saturday afternoon
alone on Portobello beach
Two golden retrievers
waddle in and out the water
looking at their humans
in expectation of what?
As the clouds thicken in the sky
and the whisky settles in my brain
something triggers a memory
of Sandymount strand
are to my right and not my left
and nothing in the uplands
to the north
quite emulates the presence of Howth Head
But such are Proustian moments
for a brief while
I’m back in Dublin
two decades ago
and unlike Dedalus
I’m not alone
Whenever Pippa passes
or the trousermen go by,
the automatic doors
spring open, hopeful:
eager to welcome
each time someone
passes close enough
to be detected
to be looked into
or seen through.
In the coffee shop
I scribble verses in
a ring-bound ersatz
Hello Kitty notebook
a knockdown bargain
legacy of the death
The Bridge of Aspiration is
a twisted structure, leading
from rehearsal rooms to opera
stage. But is that just aesthetics
or some kind of metaphor?
It is not in my nature to accept set routes or boundaries.
In the absence of walls, the short way between two points
is a simple straight line, and spirituality an affliction
of the under-occupied. So I cut straight across,
obliquely, to the bench at two o’clock, to write.
It is the evening of the day.
In the park, beside the swings
a teenaged mum gives suck
while older son, or maybe
youngest brother, plays
with mum’s classmate and
mum’s classmate’s own
I stroll around
the church, where graveyard
crows strut inbetween the dead,
and two redheaded yaffles hop
ungainly round the shadowcasting
I sketch a modernistic
seesaw, upsidedown design, and
then the old church spire, sturdy,
unremarkable. The pencil senses
apathy and won’t behave. I think,
perhaps, a swift half in the Nelson
might be nice; my preplanned
wander by the Trent has lost
appeal. And as I walk halfhearted
back that way, delaying the
decision, the young mum smiles
a friendly smile — then rushes to
the slides, forestalling infantile
Beer beats melancholy
wanderings. Carved words upon
the cemetery gates enjoin me to
I wish I could.
In the gloaming the hill appears two-D;
a sheep-shifting dog slides silhouettes
along its gentle arc. Between us and the sea
the giant-rolled shredded wheats, like
frozen wheels, dot the ochre stubble.
Always the scars: smoke-spewing
chimney, brown-gashed earthworks,
the coastal cube of the bland reactor
Then in the distance
of sun-setting West
the old volcanic
tilted mass once more
for now at least
post Cask and Barrel post Brass Monkey
leaving at last the Royal Oak
stretched and primed five canvases
Scott-Irvine didn’t live to paint
tucked under arm with blaring
loud on earphones Nancy Boy
in Embra drizzly one then two small hours
burden preventing all-night pie indulgence
passing couple after warring couple seeing
Molko-drowned-out fights and drink-fueled
quarrels hearing none of it and walking,
a nicer guy perhaps, but home alone
[Noir! Xmas Fair, Summerhall 2012: a wee kaleidoscope of impressions]
On one side a verse, on the other a picture
A card for each month to help get you fitter.
Where once would-be vets could see critters dissected
A mixture of musos and bards have collected:
An artistic concert, a free entertainment,
Machine Room music, some meaningful statements.
But thoughts of exertion drive me to the bar:
A glass of wine, some scribbled verse seems far
More suited to my current mental state —
The post Yuletide diet plans can wait.
Back to the bookstall to chat to the lassies
Of authors and readers and crap writing classes.
A youthful bo-bo extravanganza
All rounded up in this terminal stanza
With hats and accessories next to the books
A full length mirror on picture hooks …
A well-bound Austen is food for the soul
“If I stand over there, I can see myself whole.”
The turbines turn atop the hills
The snow deepest and longest
on the North-facing slopes of the valleys
The bus, though free, would have been slower;
an old man's discount day return
is well within my means for now.
——You swear on the New Testament, is that
all right? It's not. I'll just affirm,
if that's ok. No sense to start an oath
with false insinuation of belief.
He was my father and the papers
I have read and signed today
to my best knowledge and belief
are true. Five minutes of a snot-filled day.
Walk, wind-whipped, round the town
Cathedral visit, bookshops, spicy Thai.
Then back to Embra on the five o'clock
Because my Carlisle friends are breaking up.
On the steep slope up from Deep Sea World,
a much-thanked seat, a half-way house of rest,
a motley chaffinch celebrates a late
and tentative Spring day; a flash of blushing
breast and rivulet of liquid song betrays
the robin's presence in a roadside bush.
My street too has robins. One tiks and chips
on dawn-lit windowledge (as if insomnia
were not enough). The jackdaws chakking
by the school, provide a rhythm section
for squawking swartbacks overhead, while
the spuggies outdo the weans for chattering,
implausibly loud, in the only two, deceptively
spacious, privet trees on Cathcart Place.
The blackbird cocks form laddish, wittering
gangs, spluttering arpeggios of dissatisfaction.
While, silently, the solitary, shy accentors —
at-first-sight nondescript, with blue-grey chests,
hop in and out from car or wastebin cover,
and speak more clear to me than all the rest
A liquid, spectral glow
Like gibbous moonlight over hard-set snow;
New streetlight fancy, planet-saving grace
Shines limpid blessings down on Cathcart Place
That we may pass all right
When walking home through endless Scottish night,
And make our way, from foul-fiend-terrors free,
Too dimly lit for would-be thieves to see.
With a view of Grantchester over
the fields, in a room full of pianos,
I improvise; somewhere between
Tatum and Stockhausen, riffing
rambling, hammering away.
House of wanderers, students,
friends of friends of our host.
I can't play the piano.
middle-aged and middle-class
flouncing along with
loose-linen purple over
baggy tee and jeans,
to meet old friends perhaps
arriving on the four-fourteen
image her home, all pots and plants
and new-age books —
lovely ladies, the lo-sodium
sea-salt of the earth.
Having wasted (in laundry)
what turned out to be
one last warm, sunlit chance,
grey mists hang low, today
chill air inhibits walking
on the Lomond Hills.
No sets of royal tennis
on the court at Falkland
Palace, only swallows,
feeding one late brood
in terraced nests along
the viewing gallery.
An apple falls behind me
with a thump, as I stroll
round the orchard; turning,
I try to find it in the grass —
without success. A sepia
wormhole in the one I find
confirms it fallen long.
I walk the labyrinth,
sit at its heart and read
a book of verse. Playing
a departing carillon
on the hanging chimes
and plunging a short-cut
through the fragile hedge.
Desultory browse around
the gift shop, and a natter in
Maspie House Gallery, and cake
in Campbell's coffee house, all
killing time (just like the stroll
around the village), waiting
for that lonely bus ride home.
onto council-coastal grey houses
where Tweed meets open sea
Those standing at the home-time
bus stop cannot hear
Godspeed You! Black Emperor in my ear
A bleak, soft electronic drone
over which, at first alone,
a cello weaves a melismatic
soundtrack, an aural backdrop
to each empty, patient stare.
Faces of souls flood by me, unaware
of the martial rhythm of the music's swell,
pointing up their pointless march in Hell.
Where are we going?
No way of knowing;
of little use,
the indicator on the bus.
When we are young, we skip;
eccentric form of locomotion,
neither hop nor run, not meant
for speed, efficiency or even
elegance. A happy motion,
if less than joy unbounded.
Insouciant, maybe? Careless,
in the best sense of the word.
Two young girls, nine or ten, I'd say,
passed by my bench just now, ahead
of slower-treading mother, reached the weir
and skipped up to the water's edge
I watched and wondered as they played,
Why do we skip when young?
When old, why do we stop?