Makers and Destroyers

Makers and Destroyers – sample

In the time journey between then and now, what has happened to us.

The post war urban experience condensed. In this case, Glasgow; but perhaps it could be anywhere. Where ever it is, there is still a place on the map with the same name. But it’s not the same place. So much has changed so quickly for the better, and the worse. What’s gone, what’s came; that’s the interesting thing. In sixty pages, I still don’t know what to think. Nothing changed there, then!

The Language of Finn

I did not know then it was
the language of Finn
that reached back to
The Garden of Eden
and spoke of birds
and lochs and sky.
That it made honey
of words in a poem
or tears in a song.

We heard no singing
back from the pub
the door would bang
the scratch of chairs on
bare floorboards carried
through the silent night
then a voice beer loud
and another following it
turning up the volume
to a full scale bawling match
in an alien tongue.

Hearing it that first time in bed
I cooried into my granny’s back
What is it, Granny?
Och, they’re fighting about toast.
One ate the other’s slice.
How do you know?
Oh, you can tell.
Go back to sleep, it’ll be alright.
They’re making more.

Playing out the back we
kept clear of their window.
Once, seeing them leave
we spied through a wee crack
where the cardboard covering
broken glass had peeled back.
The sticky rancid whiff of animals
rushed through the space

bare light bulb hardly a surprise
two broken chairs tied with string
fish supper wrappers beer bottles,
cigarette ends box bed heaped
with filth coloured blankets
dirt clung to the random crockery
like a lichen

a broken crippled table
leaned on the mantle
above the ever unlit fire
(after cutting peat for free
never got used to paying for coal)
the cold was furious
it could have been a cage, except
for evidence of the finer things in life;
a tele and a picture of the Pope
tacked to the wall.
For support.

There were two of them
brothers, twins I think, big hulking
oxen made for navvying
coal scuttle hands
fiercely purple weather scoured
beer damaged faces.
In that place of wee men
they were a race apart

but docile, heads down avoiding
eyes, minimal nod of recognition
They’re just two big, shy laddies.
Maybe, but not at midnight
after an evening getting tanked
at The Clachan.

All the bottled up misery
of their broken race…
let loose on each other
Leig as mi, you Bastard!
as they roared and wrestled
punched and smashed
yet again their den and their faces.

In an age before house phones
for the likes of us
there was no-one to break it up
with a call to the police
far less a chap at the door,
Lads, would you mind killing each other
a bit quieter?

And then suddenly
after all the crashing
B’fhear leum nach robh mi
riamh air a thighinn a sco!*
like two giant berserkers who
beating themselves senseless
simultaneously deliver the goodnight
blow to each other and fall
unconscious in a pile.
Total silence.

The journey from the croft
to Glasgow’s golden paved streets
hadn’t turned out like they’d hoped
swapping one hurting land for another
and the penny poverty of a single end
in that barren bothy of a home

hours ticked away to years
as they staggered towards
The Land of the Leal
8 pints at a time.
No wife to cook their dinner
How was work today, Dear?
Instead, a bitter marriage to each other
and another fish supper for tea.

A life given to the shovel and the drink
and waiting, waiting for the banshee’s call
to take them to the croft
that’s owned outright forever
beyond the landlord’s reach.
Home at last, Dhachaidh mu dheiridh thall.

* I wish I’d never came here!