Short fiction and poetry
The Good Comrade
The paper fan above Auntie Rae and Uncle Leslie’s mantelpiece is huge, just like the one at Lucky House, where we went for my big brother’s fourteenth birthday. That was a great night. Everybody had a right laugh – my Da put the chopsticks in his mouth to look like giant fangs and had us all laughing as he sang ‘I am the Walrus’. The waiters didn’t laugh, but they never do. My mammy even got a wee bit drunk on Pimm’s. My mammy never drank, only on special occasions. My Da drank a lot...
From Planet magazine, issue 201, February 2011
Part of the Union
On the bus on the way back home my da was quiet. Usually you could not shut him up. I don’t mean that in a bad way. In fact, I loved being on the bus with him. Ever since I was wee he made bus trips dead interesting. We always sat upstairs – and not just so he could smoke. He used to say: ‘Up the stair to see much mair!’ Not much of gag, I know, but when I was seven it was a riot. And I learned loads about the old tobacco barons of Glasgow and all that local history that he loved so much...
From Planet magazine, issue 201, August 2011
From Planet magazine, issue 209, Spring 2013
In the Car Park of the City of the Dead
I could tell it was my Da a mile off. He’s not too tall but stands out with his gallus walk – like John Wayne did. So I waved across the car park and he waved back. As he got closer his other outstanding feature became clear, his three-quarter length double-breasted, corduroy coat with the teddy bear buttons. It must be nearly as old as me. I remember him wearing it when I was a kid and it going on the bed on cold nights...
Half an hour ago I watched my best pal from school get incinerated long before his time. Ironically, the priest that did the service would not have crossed the road to piss on the poor cunt if … well you know the rest. I’m looking at the auld sky pilot now. He’s got thone drinky-face and the giveaway alabaster hands. Never misses a free drink and steak-pie purvey...
Between the auld factory and the railway line wis like a bad film set for a space B-movie. Aquamarine boulders – lumps of scrap glass of varying size from when the auld building wis at its height – were scattered. Some jutted from the long grass. When the sun shone some o’ them looked like the tippy-tops of sunken polis car siren-lights peeking out...
Times and Tides
Inspired by The Hessle Roaders photographic exhibition, by Alec Gill.
Maternal fathers strong to save
– mam and dad to lad and lass
And men who took the
harvest from the waves.
Terrace ender tell-tale talk from
women who never waved…
Nor wavered… but buried secret fears
where they also hid their tears.
Constant fight to feed the bains
Tank-like prams booled by mams
Racing for absent men’s wages –
A dock of aegis, cleft for thee.
Scruffy kids frozen in
Perpetual Play Street gaze
Waiting for Dad’s kitbag,
– Christmas every twenty-one days.
Ever-watching Gert and Lil
lean from terrace window sill
You be-have-ing you, Bill or
I tell yer mam…I will.
Three tides later – a latch-key
Lifted in click so-quietly – so
The two-up fretting wife won’t
Wave her man away.
Grey-silhouetted deckie in the
Humber haar drops his
gear in a Subway Car to
catch the company store.
And cathedral wireless crackling
mimics bacon sizzle and soundtracks
departures in morning’s half-light
‘…Dogger, Fisher, German Bight…’
WATCH: Readings by Gemma Oaten and Mick McGarry in 12 Silk Handkerchiefs
Magical History Tour
On the No.62 bus to Hope Street, upstairs with my Da.
Him in the coat that went on the bed on cold nights.
Through a wee hand-wiped porthole we would see
the fading names atop the tell-tale tenements.
Moses McCulloch, Iron Founder, Gallowgate,
AA Massey & Sons, Purveyors and Provisions,
Aaron Goldberg & Sons, Warehousemen.
Cha Papa’s chip shop opposite the pend.
Ornate or not, he knew them all and would tell a tale
of tobacco barons, merchants and the Trongate gaol.
Past the Mercat Cross where men were hanged,
and now the Krazy Discount Warehouse stands.
All the time his arm across the back of the seat
with me by the window, almost cuddled.
Upstairs-on-the-bus blue fug adds to the smell of his coat. ...
a mixture of Woodbine, welding, burnt oil and pubs.
If it could be bottled now I would buy it for a sleeping draught.