Black Gold Gone


Coal Miner’s Statue-Kelty, Fife.

Black Gold Gone

A corner rested but not forgotten

Wi the rowans as weak as maiden’s watter

This Miner’s Memorial Garden in Lochore

Has legacy and horizons baith free and framed-

Sheep grazing and boarded up hooses nearby.


What way now for the bairns given toast each day

Be the bodies to fight wars foreign and away

Still the black gold* lies cold unner their feet

Enough of this food bank rich status quo conceit.


I worked in Kimberley township life so rich

Like Fife the veins of community are as blood

In South Africa a full decade intae Freedom new

Watched a mither selling crisps at the high school wire

What difference the early deaths here and no jobs

As a missing grass leaf care not the Cabinet snobs.


What way now for the bairns given toast each day

Be the bodies to fight wars foreign and away

Still the black gold lies cold unner their feet

Enough of this food bank rich status quo conceit.


More and more plans and targets for less and less siller

Less and less are the resources made to use

Savings are cuts in any leid or tongue

What is going to make the children’s breid?

Is this the future anySma nation needs?

More and more plans, targets all for Lot’s Pillar.

And now I walk in this quiet garden

The winter sun to help Friday’s burden

If I could tap that gold in the earth

It would be for the individual bairns I’d name

Not for the abstract notion of a nation’s rebirth

Fear and threats still leaves them lame.


*Black Gold-coal, mined by many thousands in Fife’s past.


Waiting in Dover

Nancy Town Square.

Waiting in Dover

The hitch down to Dover was uneventful. The metal flow and flash of metal, fumes and stolen air was interrupted by some Scottish rain then English rain. I was hitching down from near Dumfries over to Nancy in Northern France. It was a kid of sod it I’ve left university and I don’t know what’s next so let’s jump into something or stick a thumb in the dark.
I got a lift from one guy who was off to Brussels to pick up a German Porsche. It was fine but veered to the right once it went over 100mph. He was looking forward to the reverse journey up the M1 once he had it across on the ferry. The last leg was to Dover. A Scottish truck from a Borders company picked me up in the north of England. Halifax, I think it was.
So here I was cooped up like a sardine with a few centimetres above my head. I was in the other bunk bed with Laurie underneath me in the other bunk. In the days before the Twin Towers fell and illegal (western) wars I was okay to be signed in a Driver’s Mate on the cross-channel ferry.
There was a ferry strike in France-not unusual and we had missed a ferry. Thus being crammed in like a malt biscuit in a packet was the order of the day. I was thinking about my time in France to come when there was a loud metal crack. It wasn’t Laurie’s rig but it was near.
We were next to a few empty lorries. The drivers had headed off to the comforts of a pub. I had had a shower and rummaged in my dad’s ancient rucksack to get a book.
This time a whispered echo of voices that were hiding something seeped into the cabin. This time Laurie trundled out a comment.
‘I’m going to have to have a gander at what’s going on. It’d be what I’d want done for me.’
I could hear he was slipping on some clothes. I couldn’t believe it when I’d seen the Long Johns. Grizzly Adams in the deep English South. Laurie’s whippet like frame hadn’t fitted that image.
‘Andrew, I want you to switch on my headlights if you hear an “Okay”, from me-right?’
‘No problem’.

He went out in the dark. The pathetic light from the lorry parks high lamps had a swing of light rain run through them. I felt a long way from Fife and a Pittenweem fish supper.
I switched on the lights.
In the semi-dark to the right of Laurie’s side of the truck.
Laurie was standing-a small knife in his right hand. He flew it to his left hand and kicked the front leg of a tall, young guy.
His right leg. The heavy tawny-coloured boot was up and down quickly. There was a pivot with the left foot. It seemed slow. But all his weight had gone in.
He was down and in pain.
Bet over with both arms around his knee he still faced Laurie. The other small but older man seemed to move from foot to foot to the others’ right.
Laurie said nothing. He flicked his fingers and put the knife back to his right hand. The white top of the Long Johns seemed to make that more, not less menacing.
The romantic notion of baguettes and French beauties disappeared. I felt every breath draw in and out.
The small man moved to crouch down near the other man. Both looked at Laurie.
Laurie closed the blade into its sheath.

Later in the Driver’s Lounge Laurie told me about his new house-his wee one only a few months old. The time as a squaddie in the Rhine army and the time in Northern Ireland we barely touched upon. He became that chatty and food-mad truck driver again.

On the open French highway I opened the window on my side, seeing everything from my truck throne. I passed a map to another company truck. At 50 mph and two trucks going side by side it must have been some sight.
Continuing the journey after that relay he looked straight ahead. And the silence between us and in him was an easy one.


Plaque detailing William Wallace’s mither buried in the Dunfermline Abbey kirkyard.

Wake up mither
Wake up mother
Awauken noo
Awaken now
Fae yer ain sweet rest
From your own rest
Nae Abbey walls remain
Nor an English king camped on hame soil
Awwhaur a weirder dawn in yon warld exists
Everywhere a dawn in this strange world
In the angels’ spheres
In ony tung
In the heavens
Angels speak in every language
Byordinar bields
Extraordinary homes
Fer the common man, the weest bairn.

Slaughter is whit I felt
Mony in places A ken not
Many in places I don’t know
Dee yet-in thoosands o thoosands
Die yet in their thousands
But here oor sma nation micht be agin
But our small nation might be again
Peerless in tenacity, douce in its humility
Peerless in tenacity, quiet in its humility.

Mither did A dae guid?
Did A mak it tae yer hert?
Mother did I do good?
Did I make it to your heart?


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Galeshewe* is Apocaplyse Now in light and atmosphere
The scents, turmoil of humanity and being is Ridley Scott
Bladerunner on the red South African earth of Northern Cape
We are walking at night as backyard welding, trading goes on
Nearby Jam Boys take the money on the taxis going into town
Ten years into Freedom, the poverty and hope live on.


*Brazier: township in Kimberley-South Africa-for the Scottish GT group

Robert Desnos; Beach Walk


Le Poete et Resistant Francais-Robert Desnos

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As the West once again sees force being used to secure territory in the Ukraine I was reflecting on our visit to Terezin (Czech Republic, October 2013-which was both ghetto and Concentration Camp. I came across the memorial above to Robert. His story and poetry were fascinating e.g. his links to Hemingway and the Surrealists. The military fort where the Nazis incarcerated prisoners and executed is as it was those short decades ago. I wrote the piece below inspired by this brave and inspirational man. He died of typhoid after the camp was liberated. Below is the story from Wikipedia regarding his use of both his mind and body for others’ needs.

Susan Griffin relates a story that exemplifies Desnos’ surrealist spirit:[5]

One day Desnos and others were taken away from their barracks. The prisoners rode on the back of a flatbed truck; they knew the truck was going to the gas chamber; no one spoke. Soon they arrived and the guards ordered them off the truck. When they began to move toward the gas chamber, suddenly Desnos jumped out of line and grabbed the hand of the woman in front of him. He was animated and he began to read her palm. The forecast was good: a long life, many grandchildren, abundant joy. A person nearby offered his palm to Desnos. Here, too, Desnos foresaw a long life filled with happiness and success. The other prisoners came to life, eagerly thrusting their palms toward Desnos and, in each case, he foresaw long and joyous lives.

The guards became visibly disoriented. Minutes before they were on a routine mission the outcome of which seemed inevitable, but now they became tentative in their movements. Desnos was so effective in creating a new reality that the guards were unable to go through with the executions. They ordered the prisoners back onto the truck and took them back to the barracks. Desnos never was executed. Through the power of imagination, he saved his own life and the lives of others.

 Beach Walk

Maelstrom of beach debris

The lions erupt from the sea

And the sharks leave none alive

We can make this come alive, we can make it through

There will be no deaths this time, they will not pick our bones

Let us feel the sand between our toes

Let us walk free, let us walk on.

A McNeil