Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Can your history be about me?

By the Broch, outside Keiss, there stands a memorial.
Without words it recalls work past about past,
Tells the tale of one gentleman amateur's fascinating fascination.

a story more explicitly told up the road in an old school,
In a series of snippets of pleading letters.
One side of a conversation divorced from response.

He had his people dig,  and others build,  each time, 
a memorial to amateur archaeological endeavour,  his endeavour, 
writing large the human frailty that seeks permanence in face of death.

He seems to have actually done a fairly sensitive job for his time and training,
But I can't help but wish I had the money to throw up a permanent memorial every time I think I've done something worthwhile...

A Scottish way of putting it.

The manny, in front of a room full of folk,
Told us that "the sun didn't not shine"
And it struck me Scottish in a way.

His point was made,  it came across With a great
clarity that betrayed more than what
He was maybe trying to tell us.

It didn't not shine, like he had expected,
Like we are raised to expect that things
Gang aft aglay whenever we hope.

But it didn't not shine, and baldy heads burnt,
And maybe it won't not shine on us
So remember your factor 40,
and remember to hope.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Brighton stream of consciousness

A burrito eating barman
On a quiet Brighton street
Idly people watches
Tapping time with restless feet
Shop lights sparkle in the dusk
As hipsters pass him by
A single star far overhead
Looks down from darkening sky
The poet pauses,  drafts a line
Then heads on to his bed
While Brighton buzzes on and on
The writer rests his head

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A girl and her bell

There's a story to tell
of a girl and her bell
that she shook with
a very loud clang
of how the girl fell
down a dark dingy well
and was saved when
her bell loudly rang

While out walking one day
she just happened to stray
into woods of which
grown ups had warned her
in a clearing she found
a dark hole in the ground
and fell down
when a frog landed on her

But her bell was to hand
the loudest in the land
and a woodsman was
passing and listening
he ran to her aid
and a rescue was made
he got a reward made of gold
that was glistening

But the lass was no fool
she could see it's not cool
not to listen to
warnings of danger
she still carries that bell
but now warns of the well
to us all be we
family or stranger.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The baby's plea

Please,  be gentle,  never nip
loosen up your big strong grip
baby's glad to say hello, 
but asks you please to always know
that though my hair is nice to stroke
that soft spot is not there to poke
And though I need our mum's attention
there is something I should mention
she loves you too,  as much as me
I love you too,  that love will grow
If only you don't squeeze me so...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Three stones


Written February 2016 following the unveiling of two new stones in the cemetery in Tarancón.

Flanking the memorial to Scottish members of the International Brigades who died at Jarama and in the military hospitals of Tarancón, the two new plaques finally recognise those local people killed under Franco's dictatorship,  including one who,  from exile in France,  was sent to Malthausen Concentration Camp and murdered there.

I am hugely grateful to Mike Arnott for his editorial suggestions with regards a first draft.

2017 update:  The Spanish translation that follows is the work once more of Máximo Molina Gutiérrez of the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory in Tarancón.  

The continuing relevance of their work is sadly demonstrated all too clearly by the fact that,  just a few weeks before the February 2017 ceremony of remembrance,  vandals attacked the memorial stones,  defacing the tiles in a failed attempt to deny once again the sins of the past. 

The ceremony went ahead,  better attended than ever before, with more publicity and even greater pride. 


None shall pass not knowing them,
their names immortal as their deeds
None shall forget their fight for good,
their children orphaned, wounds that yet bleed.

In death together, finally,
though years have passed and moss has grown,
remembered now their names are read,
immortalised on tile and stone

For better world they fought, and died
In Tarancón they found their rest
On battlefield,  or 'gainst prison wall
fascist bullet piercing breast.

Their cause was freedom, fought for still
their stories we tell yet
In Tarancón we read their names
their lives we won't forget.

We won't give up till all is just,
their legacy fulfilled,
Fascism gone and all mouths fed
to repay blood they spilled.

Together now,  we stand as one
remembering our slain
their cause not dead, their fight still fought
but three stones ease the pain.

Those three stones stand,  in Tarancón,
Showing names recalled with pride,
we'll read them each and every year
and no more shall we hide.


Nadie pasará sin conocerlos

Sus nombres inmortales como sus hechos

Nadie olvidará su lucha por el bien,

Sus hijos huérfanos, heridas que aún sangran.

Juntos en la muerte, por fin,

Aunque han pasado años y ha crecido el musgo,

Recordados ahora, se leen sus nombres,

Inmortalizados en azulejo y piedra.

Por un mundo mejor lucharon y murieron

En Tarancón encontraron  su descanso

En la batalla o contra las tapias de una prisión

Balas fascistas atravesándoles el pecho.

Su causa era la libertad, por ella lucharon

Aún contamos sus historias

En Tarancón leemos sus nombres

No olvidaremos sus vidas. 

No cejaremos hasta que todo sea justo, 

Su legado mantenido, 

Sin fascismo y con nadie sin poder comer

para recompensar su sangre derramada.

Juntos ahora, estamos en pie como uno solo

recordando a nuestros muertos 

su causa no está muerta, su lucha aún por ser luchada

pero tres piedras alivian el dolor.

Esas tres piedras se alzan, en Tarancón,  

mostrando nombres recordados con orgullo, 

los leeremos todos cada año 

y ya no tendremos que escondernos más.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My cousin Sarah

When I was wee, I was so jealous
of friends with cousins
Cousins were special, secret people
who lived far away
with whom my friends had adventures
without me

I didn't have any cousins.  I had a rubbish, smelly brother
who was two years younger than me
but could beat me in fights by absorbing pain
and windmilling his arms while walking at me, a strategy
surprisingly not adopted by more MMA fighters today
given how unbeatable it is

Then, on holiday in Aberdeen,
my uncle announced his intention to marry a woman
a woman with a daughter.
And in that magical act of matrimony, I had a cousin, Sarah

She was younger than us, but while my punches
could not stop my brother being smelly and rubbish
her trying to kiss him made him run away!

This amazing ability of hers, demonstrated the day of the wedding,
and so often after,
made her the most wonderful girl in the world
Finally, I had an ally in battle.

She spoke with a naive directness that dropped jaws
"When you die, Granny, I'm going to get you a lovely headstone like that one"
a throwaway as they walked past a stonemason

A photo of her on her horse graced our Granny's shelf with love
And every time, my rubbish brother
would turn it upside down
an act of ornamental terrorism
in protest at her
finding his achilles heel

I remember the call telling me she was pregnant
the excitement of new life in her
I remember the call telling me she had a gorgeous wee boy
Just the other day I looked at photos of us with him as babe in arms
meant to send them on
He's grown so much, but is still her wee boy
So much of her in him

We spoke on and off in recent years,
but always at Christmas
would come together
would hug each other hard and promise more contact
promise that I would finally meet her fiance

This Christmas past, we spoke of
her and her family finally braving Dundee
I stole an illicit fly puff on her fag, having quit,
and we promised that this would be the year.

I'll miss her when the Summer comes, I miss her now
Ken had stopped running away from her kisses
but I could see the remembered fear in his eyes
she was my ally, my cousin
and we had adventures.