Welcome to my poetry page: some are in English, some in Scots. This is a small sample of my work.
Your food unites you with the earth beneath you.
Life’s first-formed – tiny, invisible creatures -
gather from rock, and water, and air,
what the rest of life is built on.
These creatures pass the golden letters
to the roots of plants: a conversation.
Both are ears and tongues, at once – taking,
giving, the necessities of life,
and sugar made from sunlight,
so that tiny life, and plants, can live.
The goodness of the rock is useless
if we do not have the sun.
The brightness of the sun builds nothing
if we do not have the soil,
that dark box of talk.
Soil is where light and darkness meet
and create life.
This is where words have their beginning:
the golden letters of the earth,
the sun’s breath to speak them.
They are in the wheat, that waves,
in summer sunlight, under skies
of rain and wind.
The whole of the world
is in this grain of wheat,
to be ground, mixed with water,
livened by the heat of human hands,
that touches air’s yeast to life.
Your knuckles, palms – all they have known -
are pressing the dough.
The lines on your hands:
threads to join the air and ground.
Here is your food. Bread
made by the words in your blood,
baked to be eaten with others
at a table out of doors,
in a warm evening, with a plain white cloth
on which shadows intertwine.
Hermony / Seein Distance
The distance atween
twa frequencies o soond
is whit perfects thaim,
Yer stanes cam awa
fae their cauf-grund tae shape
an airt whance ye micht
leuk back on it.
Nae city's sic a city as it thinks,
no sae faur fae the land lain aneath it.
Glesgae lilts, shairp twaloors, tae its redd -
stanes tae their rocks, glass tae its sandy bed -
I cam miles awa fae ye, juist tae fare
the seein distance whilk isnae there.
Published in Look Up Glasgow, Freight Books (2013).
The Mistook Hert and the Water
Herts hae no been herts for some time.
Aw fowk in oor world are fae Hecla:
sma mountain on a green island.
Some while back, we aw bid happily on Hecla.
Than a body skiftit doon a plum -
doon tae an airt whaur herts cannae gae.
It woke an it didnae ken its hert wis missin.
It wis unner greenness in a laund o riches.
In ablo oor life, a notion like a worm -
wummlin, glib - haed sliddered in
tae the chaumer gone aw cauld
i the fawen body's ribcage.
The notion wrocht like a hert, tho it wis no sic.
It wis Profit. It haed been waitin
for a hertless fowk tae find it.
The body wis a fowk that war unherted,
wha becam ghaists whan thay tint thon sky that loved thaim.
The ghaist-fowk's body wis wicht, but donnered
wi fawin oot the warm bed it aye teuk care o, whaur
its hert haed haed tae stey, throu that herts are love an care, an no ideas.
Herts belang tae the world that's quick an livin.
Teeth that are takken oot
can be set tae cut, but
can no pit quaistens.
So it wis wi the fowk
who war set by the notion,
an daed its bitin, an its runchin.
Profit wis a wey tae keep us muivin
for the duration o oor bein lost.
Profit coud replicate itsel,
like as life did.
Unlike life, it coud regenerate itsel
in oor sunless cave: it hud nae need o love nor rain.
It wis meatit by oor body an oor brain
whit acceptit an obeyed it i thon place
whit oor hert haed depairtit, in sic a whidder,
whit ony gates yawkit an wis relieved tae be fillt.
It felt fine tae hark Profit's dreams o dooblin, fruitin, strenth.
It wis a hecht o life that Profit made:
that is hou we listened tae it.
A cause o oor life bein lost.
Oor life haed awa an left us.
Least wi Profit, we thocht we coud aw be fed, an sauf.
We cam back tae the Owerlaund.
We stuid on the braes o Hecla. Gin we goamed
a stane the shape an girst o oor auld hert
by the shaft doon whit we'd fawen - staundin
like it wis waitin - naebody thocht it wirth remarkin.
The place o thon hert haed been fillt wi something that haed cam tae us
i the mirkness, in oor loss, and haed no abandoned us.
We were no aboot tae unnergae a second operation
an onywey, the idea-hert seemed better tae oor mynds
than yon first ane, whit made sma sense, an haed flewn us.
We skailt. We sailt on gunpouder winds aroond the world
an wi oor teeth pouked the strings
that pullt in ivery hot whit Profit socht.
The dreams o the idea were oors.
A cause it made demands we unnerstood,
an fillt the space made in us for oor hert,
it driv us. Oor rewaird
lay i the feelin we war livin.
This maitered mair tae us as the fouth.
The notion's richtness wis an additional benefit.
In New South Wales, i the North Sea an in Texas,
there war new holes. The notion wis haled up tae the skins
o ither fowk's fields. In cannie, wicelike deserts,
weans teuk oot their herts, afore the age o seiven.
The notion needed the space their herts war fillin.
The weans aw lippent i the wits o thair paurents.
On Uist, thare steyed fower bairns wi nae paurents.
Thair paurents war awa diggin holes in yon faur deserts,
an naebody learnt the bairns whit wis whit, aboot Profit an its importance.
So thir three laddies, an thair wee sister, aye haed auld-farrant herts -
cheap reid saft anes, whit ran on trust an courage,
on love an neist-tae-nocht i the cubbarts,
whit wis weel-luckit, as
neist-tae-nocht wis aw thay haed, an thay ett it ivery dinner.
Water, in time o thon first faw on Hecla, fell wi the body.
In it keltered, unner the graund.
A've been doon here sae lang, said the water noo.
The cloods fae whit A fell war o the time
afore youse fell intae this mirkness whaur A bide.
A mynd when youse war hale an ill-less.
Ma clood wis ower yese whan yer hert wis in yer body,
an yer body a green field the cairies loved.
Nae fear, than, micht hae takken yer hert - the true ane.
Yer strenth wis as a raploch: youse, ae thread,
fand yer docht i gaein ower an unner the ithers
evenly - in haudin an in bein hauden.
Youse war wuiven tae the world that missed yese.
A've been sypin throu the rock
that divided yese fae the sky. A teuk in
thon rock's naitur. Slaikit it intae mine ain hert.
Ivery hot whit caused yese pain is in me:
A'm cairyin thir dilutit meenerals.
A passed throu shames made by volcanoes,
layers o guilts, hairdenit sleeks
pressed doon lang sin by sea-beds
hulsterin wi the wecht
o clean water, forgettle waws
sheavin thaimsels appen an closed, endlessly,
aw tae hide whit's aneath thaim.
A've been throu the rocks that cam fae aw o that.
Nou a new hairdness - airn i this laund, here -
is heezin me on its shouders, tae the air.
A'm rinnin in the simmer licht,
A'm driddlin a sma dub for the peewee.
A'm bringin yese back yer pyne:
youse'll choose if youse drink it.
A anely knaw it willnae kill yese, an is yers, no mine.
A belang tae the lift.
Whaur is the bairn wha can find me?
Brother walkin bauld ower the moss
crosses laund we cleart fir stanes
tae big oor kirk.
He is sma whaur the stanes begin again.
On the braes o Hecla
he is scrinkin, he is sauntit.
Ilk in turn, three brithers are lost tae the mountain.
Thare's no skitie cleuch, no eagle nor rockfaw whit takes thaim.
It's voices in thair heids, a granite that fills thair gaps,
sets thaim solit wi dout. Thay are like jougs
filled wi a hairdenin stuff, that can not pour.
Thair roads end in moniments bigged fae thair freedom.
Thay are aw become pillars o rock.
Here is the lassie, come walkin atween thaim.
She is firm as the joug she cairies taewart me.
She lats nae dout intae her. She is deif tae the cries o the granite.
Her een haud steidy on oor summit.
She is trustin.
Her joug douks intae me, an A am in it.
Its body sae howe, an its throat nairae:
the conteener makkit tae haud an tae pass me,
no tae skail me an drap me. She poors whan she means tae.
She staunds i the wind that blaws ower the reed-beds.
She has decidit tae cairie me doon tae her kirk.
She hauds me, in her cley whit can tak me,
she hauds the joug wi baith haunds.
She stummles, an whammles,
the joug owerflows.
The pyne that can mend ye is the pyne that wis yers
made saft: water, in place o rock. It draps on ye
an ye ken whit wis yers, and whit wis lost.
Ye can drink me an sae drink the rock that is in me.
A stane lug fidges, bursts in skin fae a boolder,
an cheek an chaft come efter, wi twa eelids, closed.
The hale heid appens like a rose. It is her auldest brither
fankelt i rock up tae his shouders. A face that growes
oot the stane, tae see his sister staunding wi her joug.
She is skirlin. She screichs that he's a monster,
an bowts whan he grains, ettlin for mair water,
an draps me, mair o me, awroads, on ithers.
A am the Water o Life.
A fill the scores o heids
growed fae thair bodies' rocks
wi a sang that is forgotten.
She is runnin doon the brae but she hears
souchin fae the banes that war gane,
i place o the ettlin
an the yarrin for her water.
She is pairt o this sang, sae
she gaes back up the brae
taewarts the fowk she thocht war monstrous.
She can tak me for aye fae the wall oan the hill-heid.
She can drap me hou sae she chooses.
The second part of this poem was inspired by a recording of a folk-tale made on Uist and held in the School of Scottish Studies sound archives in Edinburgh. I found out in my research that the story was likely rooted in an old Catalan folk-tale, translated as 'The Water Of Life' in Andrew and Leonora Lang's The Pink Fairy Book.
Performed (in English - I later translated it into Scots and preferred it) with an orchestra at Summerhall as part of Remembered-Imagined.