First Boat Out


It was habit. Get a maple doughnut and a coffee and head off to the small queue. This time however Georgia wouldn’t be here. A first journey out on Toronto’s lake.

The ice had gone. This was the first boat trip out and there was still a small jewelled and ragged necklace of ice round the island.

The small boat had a few Chinese tourists on board but was pretty empty. He drank the coffee and watched the CN Tower come slowly up from the surrounding city. Even here he could feel what these Iroquois must have felt. The power of a waking and changing nature. It mulled the edge of his grief but he was happier.

The box of wedding photographs, family snaps and of Eddie were in the weighted cosmetic tin. The metal top had an acacia leaf on top. The burnished green leaf glistened as the bright light came into the covered part of the small boat.

Eddie had died from leukaemia ten years ago and it had nearly broke Georgia. His sister was twelve years younger than him and now living in Vancouver she had grieved. He looked forward to seeing her later over the web.

The backwash from the boat churned up a green and brown elixir. The bumpy ride would have made her laugh then he would have felt that tap on the shoulder when she laughed.

Never get that bogged down in grief you forget the gifts we had and what we loved and lived through together.

He had even stopped himself being angry at his company that measured time you spent at your toilet breaks. A brief respite of a few months after the funeral had ended. The young manager eager to suck up to management and agree to early morning meetings had told him off once. The tears he had let go and stemmed on her birthday had almost made him see him floored but he smiled and asked if the toilets could get some coconut moisturiser. It had been her favourite. He then had gone back to the maintenance department’s invoices for the quarter.

As the boat skipper described something on the island he slipped the green box into the water. The young son of the Chinese couple smiled when he saw him. By now the boat was turning away from the lacy carapace of ice around the island.

The boy was still watching him as he blew a small kiss with two fingers from his lips.

He Wrote a Railway Station


The thing with Sarah Louise was that she looked like every wild beautiful American from New   York you would want to meet. Now here she was in Edinburgh. We had got the bus in from the airport where her long brown hair and loud laugh attracted a lot of attention. It had been four years since we had worked in the summer camp in New York State. She had been the girlfriend of the Head Counsellor at the summer camp where we worked.

Along with my girlfriend she and her boyfriend had travelled round the east coast of America then we had all headed to Yellowstone Park. The adventures and driving across hundreds of miles of America had come to an end in Los Angles. Despite hiding my passport and stealing my clothes (for a day) Sarah Louise and her boyfriend had accompanied my girlfriend and I to La Guardia airport for a tearful farewell.

That had been eight years ago.

A lot had happened in that time. I had graduated and her boyfriend had left her for a best friend while mine had discovered that her high school boyfriend was really great and now had a small child with him.

In Scotland I had got a degree and now worked in the insurance office whose glass lined building sat at the foot of the fist of rock in Edinburgh called Arthur’s Seat.

I shared a flat with an English guy who managed a record shop and a girl whose postgraduate study was being derailed with her obsession with an anarchist who thought having a job was anti-revolutionary.

Here we were wandering round the centre of Edinburgh wondering if the rain would stop.

The fact the nearby railway station-‘Waverley’ was named after Sir Walter Scott’s novel (and the only one in the world to be named after a book) did amuse her and we headed to the Scott Monument. The blackened sandstone above the statue of the novelist hid the intestinal stairs that wound tightly up to eventually give you a view of the city and the green strips of the land across the water.

There were some awkward silences between us. Memories of a humid summer in New York State amid the sandstone maw of the memorial to Scott.

A sensing for familiarity was cut into as her head cracked off the wall. A man whose short black hair was the only thing I saw had grabbed her bag off her shoulder and headed down the narrow stairs.

Sarah Louise had her head down sobbing and picking up the contents of the bag. I helped her and made pathetic noises about getting the police.

The ticket woman was barely interested and we headed to Newington police station.

Hours of questions and sharing of details both American and Scottish made us both exhausted. The distance between us hadn’t changed.

The brief sit down in a Royal Mile pub with a whisky softened the shock for both of us and the normal appearance of people passing frightened us less and less.

It was a long night and we stayed apart.

The airport was its usual hum of rush and anxiety where people paused before letting go.

Her perfume reminded me of the Syracuse nights In NY State and the ice cream parlour where I had said I didn’t like chocolate oreos or chocolate anything.

It was the kindest goodbye because the hurt was less than if we had lasted the few years we might have had.



In Prague

It wis nae ‘Deith in Venice’

And nae like the puirest films he has been in-

Meeting Donald Sutherland was a brief encounter

Efter we huid left the sobering calm of the Jewish Museum

Just around the corner

His wee dug and partner were far friendlier

In this city where the swathes of European history is laid

In buildings, leids an cultures that tak ane

Fae centuries tae modernity an bak agin.

We left that shy film star

passing shops where only the richest shop

Where a ghetto and culture of the most ancient of religions

Had been destroyed and some remnant left simply as show

The animal in human always wants that display

Power over diversity, philistinism over understanding.

Puirest-poorest; huid-had; dug-dog; leids-language; fae-from

The Saft and the Real


The Soft and the Real

Strokin the coorse fur it is a stert

Stroking the rough fur it is a shock

The reality o life huidin the yird at bay fer saicants

The reality of living to defy the earth for even a few seconds

Means e’en the fleetest are mortal

Beauty is but skin deep

Maist beings live tae hunt an huid faimily ticht

Most living things hunt and hold their family close

Sumthin yer luif feels as the cat purrs in yer veins

Something my palm feels as the cat purrs in my veins.

Lost Futures

Remembrance Day 2013

The clear and lustred sunlight on Thornton gates

Holds warmth to nothing but the emptied field and lain wreaths

On a gate painted and adorned for the war dead

The clamour of the Highland Games these months ago

Is a remote as a Newfoundland haar where Scots

Stopped or stayed heading toward a new world.

*Haar = mist

What Does it Mean?


What does it mean

When the Sensei says you are your own best teacher..


And the gaps between the seminars should be filled

With study, planning, discourse, dialectic and strategy

Not the rigid obeying and kicking in lines

The meaning and feeling to grow should be there

Immaterial and ethereal if left alone

Not bent to your will

Like the intention to be better

That is not acted upon.

(*With thanks to Sensei Dave Hazard)