The Auld Enemy

There they are, bonny fechters, rank on tattery rank,
Murderer-saints, missionaries, call-centre workers, Tattoos,
Bunneted tartans weaving together
Darkest hours, blazes of glory,
Led by a First Bawheid, rampant, hair fizzin, sheepsheared,
Scrummin doon, pally wi their out-of-town allies,
Wallace fae Califaustralia, Big Mac, an Apple Mac,
Back from the backwoods, wi Rob Fergusson, Hume, Sawney Bean –
See how yon lot yawn and yell and stretch
Right owre from Blantyre tae Blantyre, Perth to subtropical Perth!
Wait till ye catch the whites o their eyes, aye,
The specky, pinky-flecky whites o their eyes
Worn out from ogling down a Royal Mile o microscopes, or fou
Wi dollars n yen signs, or glaikit wi bardic blindness. Wait
Till ye hear their ‘Wha daur meddle wi me,’ their hoochs
And skirls of ‘Rigour!’ Wait till ye smell
Through coorse, dauntless, distilled Jock courage,
The wee, trickling smell of their underdog-on-the-make fear
Dribbling down greaves, rusting nicked, spancelled armour.
Wait till you hear the start of those whispers,
‘We’re fine, thanks, Tony.’ ‘Don’t rock the boat.’
‘Oh, thank you, thank you, Secretary of State.’
That’s the time, eyeball-to-eyeball,
Tae face them down, the undefeated
Canny Auld Enemy, us.


I love the bigamy of it, the fling
Of marriage on top of marriage.
Marry me, Alice, marry my secrets,
Sight unseen, and marry Glasgow and Rose
Macaulay and the snell east wind.
I’ll marry you and Iona and has-been,
Shall-be firths of slipways and dwammy kyles.
I do, you did, we’ll do, hitched to every last
Drop of our wedding-day showers,
Downpours, reflecting us over and over,
So we’ll fall in compact mirrors, blebs
As the heavens open, bride’s veil, grey suit, ringing
Wet with carillons of rain.
That day seems like only tomorrow,
Present, future, pluperfect, perfect smirr
Champagning us doon the watter, on,
Launching us, conjugating each haugh,
Oxter, pinkie and lobeless lug
As it will be in the beginning.

A Moment of Your Time

for Kate Whiteford

Z-rods and a Pictish hoopla of carved rings
Swim into view. Yacht sails on the North Sea
Tack back and forth, xeroxing other summers
When other yacht sails did that too, sped, idled,
Veered into light. Dwamtime. Heat-haze. Relaxed,
Unchronological ribbed fields. Leylines
Flounce across territories never ours,
Where we belong. Grassed-over souterrains
Rich with mud-rhythms, moss-haired residues
Of moon and beaver, lily, loon and quine,
I praise you all. Wind-sough, wind-sook
Of chamber music, cairn-singing, firths’
Haar threaded through a net, babbling with dew,
Murmur me, let me catch another’s breath,
Lightly, as part of breathing. Here it is:
Remnant, keepsake, rune, God-given script
Made just for you, the right lines, sacred text
Of matter cooked in stars, instantly endless
Then passing on but holding nothing back,
Good for the child, the skeletal, the green
Foliage-bank whose sap’s stared into at
Eye-level. Here’s the whole shebang that is
Time, place and climate, ebbing, dancing, set
In stone and motion, calmly at the ready
Before and after, purled in helices,
Every last atom pregnant with an A.

Oan Paip J2

Genua cui patrem, genitricem Graecia, partum
pontus et unda dedit, num bonus esse potes?
fallaces Ligures, et mendax Graecia, ponto
nulla fides. in te singula solus habes.

George Buchanan: ‘In Iulium II Pontificem’

Daddy a Genoan, Mammy a Greek,
Yer a fushionless son o’ the sea.
Tallies, Greeks, an the Med are full o lyin cheek.
You, pal, are full o aa three.

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