Loch Shiel #fieryverse

Mill pond calms, fold and stretch across Loch Shiel
as Captain Jim reverently nudges his beloved Sileas
through timeless waters, black, raven black waters.
They demand nothing but the respect
of their silver edged years. No more than they’ve earned.

And when they slow to a motionless, velvet sheen,
the high mountains of Moidart
rise from the depths
in a reflected peace that has been layered
down through the generations
with the tears of joy, and of pain,
of those who have toiled the shores of Shiel.

A peace broken only by the rhythmic beat
of the boat’s engine padding out a gentle Air
with whispering grace notes of diesel
and nurtured effort drifting past me.
Some of them stopping to infuse with the dram
I’m guarding in a wee plastic cup
with a contented grin
in a smoky blend that draws the mind
to the charcoal burning days
on the foreshores, of birch and oak of then,
where now the uniformed brigades of Spruce
await their felling orders.

The Sabbath sun like a single, sickly candle
stumbles through a languid hole in the grey canvas.
A canvas of petulant clouds, shoving and nudging
in the cramped space between the blurred horizons of Moidart.

Amidst the gloaming shrouded crags where
the eagle with majestic aloofness maintains a watch
over our steady progress past Glenalladale
pushing its green curved edges out in to the wildness beyond.

This Place of MacDonalds and a restless beauty emptied
when the White Rose wilted.
Petals blown in the winds of the sorrow
that the Butcher’s judgement passed upon it.

We puddle onwards where a cormorant
with a grumpy glare and no time to stop
crumples past to gather a bag of fish farm fry
if any have escaped their pumped out and poured in confusion.

Past the bald head of a rock
not big enough to lay claim
to sovereignty of its heather gripped tower
but where a chorus of common gulls shriek
out a dozen tunes at once
just to let us know that they can.

And we pause at Garscan, a white smudge
on the velvet green solitude
with its shiny new roof betraying the harsh reality
of those who bore the seasons
before its freshly rippled metal hat
was nailed to its bleached old bones.

The rickety old pier
like the bony twisted hand of wisdom
pointing the way home to Captain Jim
who turns us reluctantly
to follow the horizon back to raise the Standard.

Yet my mind is on more urgent matters
a pint of dark, Glenfinnan Dark
and the comforting edge of an embered hearth
to warm my contented soul
with fish and chips
safe from the Cormorant’s beady eye.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems

Embo Beach

A shift of Dunlin, unpicking the last knots of a morning tide
allowing its lace edge to slip back into the bay – its work done.

A fresh canvas awaits the first artist to leave an impression –
striding foot, and weaving paw, a scattered peck of oystercatcher,
and a sun-kissed bound of strolls – unplanned and unjudged,
the loose, broad ropes of stones spread out across the raised shore,
rounded, burnished, polished by the centuries, resting, waiting
for the winter storms to rattle their bones once more.

But I stop now for a moment and lift random flipstones,
to catch the whispers of their secrets escaping into the day.

A squadron of eider, late for an appointment, eases past
piercing the calmness of the day with a cheery call, ignored
by the bob of gulls puddling, planning their next annoyance,
scattered by my companion, barking at the rows of foam-haired foals
breaking on the boundary, starting backwards, springing forwards,
giving no quarter – rejecting nothing in this outnumbered exchange.

A single pebble skimmed over the still waters, the music of its circles
resonating softly, gently to break on the moment and remind me of then.

Of buckets and spades for sand castles that pierced the clouds.
Of sand dusted sandwiches, egg and sand, jam and sand
and burying my Dad to his chin. Everything’s in the tides breath.
The long beach inhales it. Its travelers bind it together – faithfully
contemplating what the sand’s intentions are – what makes the wind
slow to the buffeted step of our journeys. Life is random clouds folding.

All at once, a break in those scrapes and a million tea lights appear –
sparkle, shine, bob and dance towards the horizon streaked by urgency.

Sand martins, weaving right, darting left, in and out of the grass –
stalks shuddering in the breeze, like long spears where ancient warriors
dragged their boats up and walked ashore to till the land.
This land behind me where a single, determined curl of smoke
betrays the farm huddled down behind the buttressed dunes –
their muscle bound sands defiant. I desire the straitjacket of their world.

I can’t pretend we are meant to be together. The beach asks me questions which
I can’t answer but both our hearts are jealous free and expect nothing of each other.

Hidden larks cooried in the machar stop as I walk away – the grass
tying around my legs, pleading me to stay but I need to go
so that I can relish the thought of returning – a last cloud sits
on a brighter day, surrendering its burden, allowing the larks to sing
in the swell of raindrops too heavy for the lady’s mantle –
a silent symphony catching the rhythms of the morning’s embroidered hours.

I spread my arms to accept the moment of our parting. Eyes wide – I choose
the risk of lasting scars, of forgiving memories. I offer up no defence for my ambitions.


Filed under Poems

the missing ingredient

When you stir it too long
it thickens to a sludge.
When you stir it too quick
it throws the words out,
leaving the page empty
with berry drops of thought
struggling to find oxygen,
wanting to find meaning
in the contagion of memory
lifted from the well thumbed
page your mother left you
in that book with bluebells
and shades of hot summers
in the crease, and the wilt
of honeysuckle stems folded
into the last page but one,
the recipe for your life,
you never could get right,
the ingredients always short
because she knew the secrets
the odd stack of jars held safe
in the cupboard, you can’t open
without thinking of her
without berry drops of thought
mixing with fresh picked tears
and things to add to the list
for next time you find courage
to visit the store, without her.

1 Comment

22/06/2016 · 2:21 am

Scattered Thoughts – a poem for @embocomshop and @EmboAFC

Burnet rose, sea spurrey
and thrift mirrored pink in the moon –
a solstice gathering of sandpipers; time
passing through the machar without me
and hours scored, acknowledged sure
by a pine cone cuckoo – back shore tight
until lark rise for the dawn shift.

The sea is liquid velvet. The horizon
distant, confident in its purpose
to stitch sky to our awe struck eyes.
Walk with me on the path of sorts.
Walk with me through breakfast dishes
of broken shells, and scattered bones.
They care little for our adventures.

Ahead of us the football pitch, Embo
and a collage of coffee mornings,
bargains and the juice of a village
solid in the whitewash and mortar
binding the good folk to its existence.

The burial mound of grass clippings
hunkers down, reverent in its duty
holding memories of past glories
and the goal that was never offside.

I place a foot on its edge, to connect
with the voices and the whistle blast
which ignited the larks into a burst
of song, ignoring the final score – forgotten.

By then, I’m at the Shop – waiting,
on a coffee, with a Northern Times
and a gale forecast across the bay
but with a good chance of a dram
to sooth its edge – in this landscape
where ninety minutes is never enough.

1 Comment

Filed under Poems


As you sat with me in silence
in the field of mouse eared hawk

I heard the industry of the quarry:
the rumble of the digger shaping it

the call of the gaffer, and the mason
counting out the marks of time

and lads moving the slate sheets
like gravestones on the standby list

for unplanned funerals, when far
reached journeys came home to rest.

The birthstones of roofs, abandoned
filed in sharp rows, pushing heavy

against the whitewashed stipple
of the Ironmongers, in competition

with spinning rods, rainbows, beach balls
and the resentment of the curlew’s plea

sadly calling, heavy, rain-soaked
all mud-slick in a smothering breeze.

I watched you walk towards the sea
and count the hours, in rings of rippled calm

Leave a comment

08/06/2016 · 5:07 am

Through City Veins – I am St Johnstone

I am there now. I see the town
St Leonard’s across the Inch
prison walls threaten behind me.
They don’t hold me back. I am born.
I’m free to think, to play the game.
I can feel the grass. I can hear seagulls
circling, mocking us. We, this odd bunch of men
in shorts. Students of football.
The cricket bats in a bag, in a shed
for another day, for another team.
For now, I am St. Johnstone.
I am born to reach over the Inch
to run through city veins
to bubble up through the mouths of grafters.

I was uncertain of everything – rules, tactics
the opposition’s efforts matching mine – unsettling
the stumbling steps of my new found stride
but my mind was sure of this –
defeat would not kill me.
It would feed me. I was born St. Johnstone
a living thing, growing beyond your quickening lives.
My blood would spill, to run through foreign fields –
for King and Country they said. I left myself there
but returned in broken parts to be born again.
I am St Johnstone – I would breath again
because you would breath with me.

I am there now. I can see the Stand, the Ice Rink
the barriers, the Ormond boys.
The signal letters – DRYBURGHS – rippling across the corrugation.
Defiant. Bold. Brainwashing, across city roofs
through the smoke of industry, calling to the loyal
the curious, the rich men, poor men, big men, wee men
fair maids, old maids and the etceteras
who pumped their blood into me and we ran together.
We stood up together and became more than our yesterdays.
I am St. Johnstone. I live beyond your narrow days.

Then he found me in the slump. Not dead but tired
bruised, where the juice had been sucked
from my bones. He lifted me up, nurtured me
took me to green fields, built me a home.
I am there now. In the four Stands, the Suites
the weave of tartan. I am the grass, the cotton
the blue, the white, the zipped up effort of youth.
Its brittle edge and fiery stew of energy
where my tomorrows will be born.
The seagulls circle but no longer mock.
I bristle with possibilities. I am St. Johnstone.

I am St Johnstone until I die
but why should I care of death when I am re-born every day?
I am the smudge on the polished curve of the Scottish Cup.
I was born again between the outstretched hands of my Captain
and the banners tied to an open top bus.
I’ve spun the roulette wheel in Monaco.
I walked to the edge of the Arctic Circle.
I dipped my toe in glacial waters by alpine shores.
I reach the far side of this earth, secure in hearts.
Every day, I am St. Johnstone.

I am there now. In the shop window
and the bar shelf to the right of the optics.
I am in the queue – at the checkout, at the bus stop
on the tree lined road to the next departure
from the Crematorium. I’m all the Lotto Numbers.
I’m the spare peg in the Dressing Room.
I’m every blade of grass.
I’m the first goal, the last point, the air in the nets
the corner flag flutter of every game
the reach of every word in every column inch. I am there now.
I am the echo of studs in the tunnel, and the last floodlight fading.

I am St Johnstone. I’m in the checked in holiday baggage.
I’m on Sugar Loaf, Table Top, and every postcard sent home.
I’m on the walk down from Letham, the bus up from Muirton.
I’m in the sparkle of early arrivals, the slump of early leavers.
I’m the burst of East Stand opinions, the lift of song
the bounce of bare chested Unity. I am all those beating hearts.
I’m players not yet Legend, dreams not imagined, adventures not planned.
I’m manifest destiny.
I will breath tomorrow if you will breath with me – forever
I am St. Johnstone.

Leave a comment

02/06/2016 · 12:46 am

in the blank #fieryverse

and a smile as wide as the sky
where the mountains of Moidart
take the sea by its embroidered edge
pulling you a little closer to me

past the old pier, where the rocks
hide their encrusted inflictions well
and the sea loch puffs out its chest
with all the pride of a new found father

when the bundles of prawn boats
laden with jewels and adventures
nod and bow in the passing, with news
of the deep and the glory of birthdays

exclaimed by the gulls pirouetting
through pieces of white, in the blank
which only the Gods can translate
into the call on reluctant followers

but you and I know what it all means
no transcription is necessary, as I sit
and gaze towards the horizon, content
to let the sea unravel the knots between us

1 Comment

01/06/2016 · 4:17 am

Gaffer’s Land – a tribute to Tommy Wright @St_Johnstone_FC – Manager of the Year

You’ve found your place here, in between, at the edge.
Palpable reverence. The players, the crowds busy
re-arranging your plans set before, confident
on the calm surface of your judgement, exposed
every time, scrutinised, dis-assembled in the efforts
of the quick and constant, the random, clean chaos
played out on turf before you – analysed, agreed
sometimes disagreed in the boxed seats behind you.

If fate called your name, you found your place
in this white bordered zone, this no man’s land.
Something was set right in the unraveled plans
of he who went before, and the spotlight turned.

I’ve stood in your place, at the edge, in between
kicked every ball in an empty dream. Full of belief
I’ve inhaled the same air but there for sure, parched
an unbending truth exposed me. I was an imposter.
I nodded to the four corners, squared off and holy
smiled softly and returned up the tunnel grateful
away from the Gaffer’s Land – your place set true
in the hearts of minds of us, your fellow travellers.

Leave a comment

31/05/2016 · 5:16 am

fishing for a point

a single point, the nail-biter
the beat-the-split dangler
just out of reach – teasing but
like hunting a spring salmon
make the wrong move /

it’s gone – slipped into current
– shit-hooked in plain sight
by likewise desperate travellers
in multi-skiffs, home-late trawlers

and you spin about, clinging
on to what you have, upturned
until the massage of the current
caresses your ego – but stumble

and before you realise, it pulls
you under the split of tides
pummels your nerves, tests
the very notion of survival

and when the May blossom
gathers on the settled skim
you may have surrendered
to the weary heart turmoil

rolling your exhausted carcass
on to the shifting, lower sands
where you left on your journey
upstream those summers past

or if the prisms, grant your wish
of good fortune, stand firm
and straighten into one beam
they’ll hook you by the label

on the last shirt bought
on the last trip to yon sunny place
and you’ll float in easy circles
not drowning, settling into exhausted

beat-the-drop, contented sleep
until the next run, itches, nibbles
at your soul, and guddle-tempts you
to cast into the fast water again

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems


Shakespeare was a smug bastard
using up all the words
making up his own,
getting them in the right order
every damn time;
call it pressure,
call it what you will,
stare at it from a distance
through fresh-cut crystal bourbon,
through caffeine loaded spirals,
nail it to the darkness
of snow white A4 – naked or bound,
turn on me,
turn on yourself,
watch the adverts, add ice,
a dash of spice, a dance of lime;
pull the ticker tape through,
write down the words that mean
something for tomorrow,
phone your agent, burn the rest,
don’t call it pressure,
call it love,
call it what it is
me, you,
leaving nothing on the page
but burn marks
and fading bourbon circles
every damn time,
using up all the words,
making up our own;
Shakespeare was a smug bastard


Filed under Poems

first light

Mind thon dreich days
when first light threw a sickie
and the crumpled note
written in the bestest effort
of your mothers handwriting
buckled, sweated, crumpled
under the strain of your teacher’s disbelief?

I mind it fine.
I’ve turned up Bach’s Cello.
The rain’s carried my note away.
I’ll put the kettle on
so we can hae a news
and practice our bestest handwriting
under the strain of Bach’s carefree bow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems

shadows loom

Against cold, shimmered slabs
I listen for memory – of you.

We have an oak bench on the shore.
Can I draw you a chorus of tides

confused by your absence, to turn
without purpose in lonely silence?

Absence is dry wrack, then spendthrift
replaces the gaps with pink knots

until hope yellows the broom
with your open arms warming me.

I’m sitting on our bench: counting
the clouds passing, uncertain

of the distance, wary of the gaps
in the unfold of slow water

where shadows loom
larger than the mountains reach.

1 Comment

Filed under Poems

they lied about the leaves

they promised me
the leaves would
be mine once
they fell from
the last tree
for the last time
when the dead poets
had run out of stuff
to write about leaves
don’t get me wrong
I’ve waffled longingly
about pines and
and limes and oaks
and roots and will
do it all again when
leaf buds green but
I was promised
the last bag of
leaves to layer
my words among
the musty mould
to mature and let
them breathe new
life into my lines
then get on the
bus to Innesfree
to visit old Yeats
and complain a
bit [to Billy B]
and shout aloud
you can keep the
rows of runner
beans and stuff
but I’ve got the
last bag of leaves
so stick that in
your next sonnet
but wait for you
are dead and I’m
not so my invite
to speak at his
society has just
been cancelled
[damn] [bugger] [blast]
for now it seems
I’ve burned my
rickety bridges
they lied to me
about the last
leaves so it seems
they’re not for
sale at all and
I’m stranded here
in Innesfree
no Billy B
no money
no bus and
no leaves

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems


The hinner o’ glaur
mid the chill cauld dubs,
rainin’ then, rainin’ forever
ain mair th’ same.

Th’ brichtest spot
on the kail broo horizon
a glaik o’ mattresses
wi’ jam berries snoozin’
bin th’ stoney field

whaur tatties coorie th’ gither
wishin’ they waur chips
an’ trachled auld coos
curse th’ cost
o’ bran’ new wellies
ain hae’n tae fork oot
fur twa pair each.

Pestered aye ways
by honkin’ geese
like feathery midgies
fa dinnae ken whither
they’re comin’ or goin’
an’ howkin’ fur tatties
is like dookin’ fur aipples.

Thaur stauns fushionless
in the maughsome glaur
the fairmer glowerin’
at the muckle midden,
flickin’ his fag
tae gently sizzle
in th’ nearest dub.

Lug flaps doon
an’ dander up,
shakin’ his heed
in a fumin’ fizzle
he hauchles awa’ cursin’
his faither’s fancy dan
EU subsidy ambitions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poems

the slumber of bones

January circles and wheels above the slump.
Impatient. A pedant of sparkled irrelevance.
Butterballs, swollen like barrage balloons
unaware of their basted doom, lurk in pantries.

The sparrowhawk cares nothing for baubles.
His eyes are set on the thorn bush tangle
going nowhere until a door opens in the rain
and the lunchtime special is wiped off the board.

I can hear the sparrows sigh as one on the dub.
Although they will not venture the bird table
until the sentry pigeon has surveyed the grain,
their rattle of bones can settle into the briar.

No death in winter’s breunloch merits sweet
notes of summer reflections in rippled chaos.
Countless generations have sat out storms.
Slumbering. Sleepwalking through Christmas.

Tiny sparks of life catch in the whisky smile
of a face shining, though less the countenance
of harried survivors, remaining content to stand
in the defence of dreams yet to be imagined.

There, to settle down with a book of poems, beneath
the unhurried supplication of moss bound tiles
and hide there until the fear of bottomless pits
passes with the storm clouds, promises intact.


23/12/2015 · 6:43 am