1996 – 2000

the future

she came towards us


her mother and siblings

a toddler

of no particular



her eyes were open

her smile dazzling

and as she

acknowledged me

I didn’t know

whether to

laugh or cry

the tree

what strange creatures humans are

consumed by narcissistic desire

to leave their mark

to carve a niche

mundane as date and name

on ancient timber

to prove for all posterity

that they were here

in this place

once upon a time


what a remarkable entity this tree is

a twenty foot circumference

of ficus rubiginosa

an amalgamation of numerous trunks

welded together by sap and fibre

branches stretching ever higher

fissures streaked lichen green

channelling rain to pools that gather

in whorls and gnarls

the coarse multi-layered bark

providing a perfect habitat

for myriad insect worlds

fungi flourishing in every crook

all sustained and nourished by

roots like hawsers on the Clyde


much more impressive

more enduring than

hapless mortals wielding knives

the wedding party

Kais took me to a wedding

a most morose affair

the guests sat in a cheerless hall

on rows of wooden chairs


the bride, in all her finery

was sat upon the stage

she did not smile, or laugh, or speak

like one who had been caged


the groom mixed with the wedding guests

and danced the night away

his prize for life, an obedient wife

and this, his bedding day

on Orchard Street 1

we were no strangers

Carlos and I

our kinship obvious

from the outset

within hours of meeting

I was undressing

in anticipation of his touch

such was my trust

in this young

Irish/Peurto Rican shaman


with tender certainty

his fingers searched

my neck and shoulders

explored my spinal cord

scanned my lower back

seeking out twists and knots

of debilitating tension

born of years

spent wandering

without direction

reaching right inside

massaging both

soul and mind

all the while

Carlos whispering

words of sweet

seductive wisdom

in my ear

and planting

little kisses on my skin


some other night

we might have fucked

but not this night

this was a time for

remembering the way

for rediscovering

the pleasure

the all too rare joy

of encountering

a fellow traveler

on Orchard Street 2

time spent with


is ever intense

side-splitting fun

or diabolical irritation

over-indulgence in

alcohol, smoke and coke

lack of sleep and

endless conversation


but this trip was




by sadness

shared grief

declared publicly

we wept together

we wept alone


the past taking

a visible toll

his thinness of body

weariness of soul

assertions of love

tinged by

thoughts of death

rendering me

an emotional wreck


our parting

stained with

tears and sorrow

at the Poets’ Cafe (for Carlo Baldic)

Carlo performs pure voice poetry

trumpets haunt silent space

guitar riffs vibrate emotion

percussion enhances verbal grace

sax wails unleash lyrical fusion

diverse tongues licking espanol flames

jazz sweet words, mesmeric passion

forming potent stanzas, searing refrain


do you speak english?

do you speak english?


si, si Carlo

y el idioma del amor

Manhattan mermaid

let time and the elements

affect my fate

as I crack and peel

and fade away

leaving behind the

detritus of urban life

the flotsam

of human foibles

ego jettisoned

nothingness welcomed


on top of Torr Hill

surrounded by gorse

a lump of granite fits

the shape of my arse

perfectly, well, almost

I sit cross-legged

eyelids closed



sun shining

breeze blowing

landbirds trilling

sea birds squalling


I look around

a hawk hangs loose

on an airstream

goes where

the wind takes it

glides out of sight

dense pinewoods to my left

Auchencairn to my right

Heston Island ahead

Glasgow miles behind


a few days respite

at Orchardton

re-locate the centre

unearth me again

candles dancing

she wanted to go dancing in Glasgow

but settled for a candlelit dinner instead

out there on the platform with the perfect view

Heston Island at twilight, foliage framed

and as night fell the candles danced

around the parapet, along branches

across the forest floor

creating an al fresco dining room

complete with log fire

pots balanced on birch trunks

we cooked a four course meal for four

chanterelle mushrooms gathered that afternoon

curried vegetables and spicy greens

chocolate flavoured creamed rice

and then the coup-de-grace

Cath’s superb birthday cake baked by her Ma

decorated by the birthday girl herself

shooting stars of marzipan

and the men smoked after-dinner cigars

Cuban no less, while we drank wine

smoked joints and talked and laughed

among  the dancing flames of thirty three candles

hear me New York

hear me New York

as I comment upon

the alluring cacophony of sound

music, talk, traffic and trade that

makes this place a merry-go-round

of ceaseless clamour

where people rush from A to C

both rich and poor

albeit reluctantly

rubbing shoulders as they

chase their dreams on the

teeming sidewalks of Manhattan


hear me New York

as I recall

that first hot blast of air

that clung so fast

so alien to this Scottish skin

more used to icy, skelping winds

that take the breath away

a wide-eyed child

for whom automatic doors

did not exist till JFK

who’d never seen a colour TV

and thought a shower, a rarity


hear me New York

as I talk about a teenage trip

acid at the Filmore East

being groped from Brooklyn to Bryant Park

each and every working day

late nights on the avenue

desperate kids with needle tracks

friends knifed for nickel bags of grass

or fighting over who was fucking who

while I fell out of patience with them all

and at the end of six long months

wanted only to be home


hear me New York

as I speak into the poet’s mic

and tell you what our lives are like

in wet and windy Glasgow

second to none outside the Emerald Isle

for the depth of ancient hatred

our infamous sectarian shite

and now, more recently, a place where

racial enmity pits asian youth against white

unemployed against unemployed

both groups failing to see the point

to oppress you must first divide


hear me New York

as I describe your influence

upon my life and family

economic refugees from Calton slums

who, sixty years on, have spawned

a multi-national concern

of Scots/Italian… Lebanese…

Polish… Syrian… and other

most of whom know nothing

of their Celtic roots

whilst I am all too aware

of how you’ve shaped me


hear me New York

my home from home

my nightmare and my fantasy

hear me New York

Buckies, blades & bloody nightmares

the bright


creature you are



a nest of

little comfort

amid the shite



a fragile self

with tokens

rare memories

hopeful books

on a crooked shelf

yet can’t eclipse

the present blight


disappear piles

of soiled clothes

decaying food

festering cans

or the scattered

scraps of words


in desperate flight


Buckies, blades &

bloody nightmares

consuming all

the bright

and beautiful

creature you are

your story old

as history





grasp one of many

hands held out

by others

who have known

your plight

but refused to

yield their lives

to bloody nightmares


Buckies and blades

offer scant relief

and no escape

it is easy to run

much harder to hide

the bright


creature you are

remembrance day

today I remembered

a toddler led up

a Calton close

sweeties shoved into

her four year old hands

whilel Frank rubbed

his ten year old thing

between her thighs


today I remembered

a child falling asleep

at the age of nine

in the home of

the elderly man

she trusted as a friend

until he forced his fingers

inside her knickers


today I remembered

a teenager out

on a routine date

who found herself

being callously raped

the guy in question

not asking but

simply demanding sex


today I remembered

a young assistant

summoned to attend

a meeting strangely

bereft of associates

just she and her boss

with his most

unbusinesslike agenda


today I remembered

the various women

I’ve counseled

friends and strangers alike

whose skin and bones

and hearts and minds

have been broken

some beyond repair


today I remembered

the numerous girls

I’ve worked with

paranoid, anorexic

suicidal weans

abused and tortured

by grown men

related to them


today I remembered

why I cannot

quell my rage

why I’m so insistent

so fucking in your face

about our right to live

without fear or threat

of sexual violence


today I remembered

and now

I’m reminding you

lest you forget


moving on

I’m moving on now

what else can I do?

knowing full well

no one person

could have more of me

than I gave you

even so

it wasn’t enough


I’ve been here before

and as I told

that other friend

another woman

all those years ago

to be close to you

there must be space

in which I can be me


without it

I am nothing

have nothing

would cease to be


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