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8.2k · Dec 2010
Tinder
Alan McClure Dec 2010
My heart
is a field of tinder
and one thought is the match

Step back -
the thought approches -
the whole **** place could catch!

Red hair,
quick smile
and arms open wide enough for me,
for me.

My heart
is a field of tinder.
This is a song really, but I like the words.
6.7k · Mar 2011
The Door
Alan McClure Mar 2011
Imagine my disappointment when,
on discovering a tiny door
in a hollow tree,
locating its miniature key
beneath a buttercup,
unlocking and opening it

I found not a world of tiny folk
not Tir-nan-Og nor Avalon,
but a spectacled man in a white labcoat
holding a clipboard
and making notes on my reaction.

"Initial shock", he jotted,
"followed by anger and suspicion.
"Likely to require counselling
"within a year."

I closed the door as politely as I could
and went back to my books.
- From Also Available Free
6.5k · Jan 2011
Snowdrops near Susi's House
Alan McClure Jan 2011
No-one told the snowdrops
that the world is coming to an end
that there is no sense in trying anymore
that darkness has finally defeated the light

And ignorant of the truth
they push once more
through the mould and grit
raising their heads above ground

Stopping me in my tracks.

Oh yes!  Things used to live here!
The wan Scottish sun used to warm us
and the endless pounding rain slaked thirst
and pumped like blood into new life and hope.
How did we forget?

And they change everything.
They change everything.
They return the world to the state they need it to be in,
they are nodding heralds of the coming supernova

which will happen
with us
or
without us.
- From Also Available Free
4.9k · Feb 2011
Spiderman
Alan McClure Feb 2011
I always assume
that kids know how to be kids.
I'm sure we weren't taught the skills, were we?
No-one pointed to a tree and said,
"See that?  Climb it."
And if Craig or Chris or Jamie pointed a finger
and said, "Bang!",
no referee had to discreetly whisper
"You're supposed to fall down now."

But something as natural as breathing
is falling by the wayside.
These small humans aren't kids -
not like we were.
Company is a chore for them,
screen-seeking solipsists,
and I worry for their future, constantly.

If my six-year-old self
were to appear amongst them
he would stand, baffled,
full of useless power
Like Spiderman
on the Norfolk Broads.
- From Also Available Free
4.6k · Oct 2012
Starfish
Alan McClure Oct 2012
Three times now
when I have sought solace in solitude
over the headland on the rocky shore
I have displaced my insistent inner voice
with a simple quest:
"I will find a starfish".

And each time I have done this,
gingerly rockhopping away from it all
towards the kelp-caressed wavelets
I have found one
under the first stone I turn over.

But no matter how diligently
I continue the search
I have never found a second.
3.9k · Mar 2011
What's in a Name
Alan McClure Mar 2011
The happiest race
that ever lived
had a supreme deity
they called Ygrroxxblqnrrgubnipotrwwwwnququti
and because they could neither say
nor successfully think
his name
they put him completely from their minds
and got on with their lives.
3.4k · Nov 2010
The Pheasant
Alan McClure Nov 2010
Hunting has a noble heritage, for sure
Bringing us together, it forged a species
Keen-eyed, communicative, feared by the fierce

               So who am I to begrudge you your sport?
I, too, love wide open skies, tramping over bog and fen,
I even quite like dogs!

I imagine nature might reveal herself to you
In signs jealously guarded from the armchair carnivore.
I can almost reconcile your harsh percussion
With the croak of the raven, the sloshing tide
And the chewing and mooing of cattle.

But the pheasant!  For the love of God, the pheasant?
It can hardly be a battle of wits!
I've seen him as he sits, a big, red bullseye
On fences and *****,
Startled by every day he survives.

How stirring can it be,
Picking off the ones the cars and lorries never got?

When you carry him home,
Better off dead,
Hang him in your garage for a week
Feeling like Henry VIII,
Cut him down, slit him open and find the crop
Stuffed not with heather shoots and beetles
But with half a pound of store-bought grain
(Generously laced with antibiotics) -
I hope the realisation creeps up
That you may as well have asserted yourself
In the hen coop,
Blasting away at befuddled poultry
And saving yourself a walk.
- From Also Available Free
3.2k · Feb 2011
Mechanic
Alan McClure Feb 2011
Every day
I'd see them headin aff
in that clapped oot old banger.
He'd nivver get it looked at -
thocht it'd run
on positive energy and a kind word.
If that were true
my fower year apprenticeship
and six year in the garage
wouldny be worth ocht, would it?
But would he come tae me?
He would not.

There they'd go -
the exhaust gruntin lik a vexed rhinoceros
an the fan-belt scraichin lik a banshee.
Ah couldae sorted that in unner an hour.

Ah seen him workin on it wance, mind -
thocht he wis fin'ly gonny change thae bald tyres
But naw,
he wis paintin' ****** flooers on the bonnet!

Ah kin see them yet.
Headin up the hill,
weans in the back,
cloods ae black smoke pechin oot the pipe.
Ah couldae fixed it.
Ah couldae telt them.
But ah didnae.

An they nivver made it hame.
3.1k · Sep 2012
Swallows
Alan McClure Sep 2012
There was something wrong with the sky today
in the melancholy cold September sun.
Frost sculpted clouds hung in the empty blue,
bereft, uncelebrated

The swallows are gone.
No more exalting
in our wet summer
unfettered by earthbound grumbles:
now they scythe the skies
to Africa
leaving us completely behind.

A white-spattered woodshed -
over-bold insects -
and perhaps
the promise of return.
3.1k · Sep 2012
Johnny and the Whyrates
Alan McClure Sep 2012
Little Johnny Piccolo is sitting in his room
and he’s gazing out his window on a stormy afternoon
He sees the clouds a-tumbling topsy-turvy through the gloom
on a wind that whips the winter through the trees
And there’s lashing licking raindrops streaming down the windowpane
So the scene is shimmer-shaking and can never stay the same
And wee Johnny’s all a-tremble with excitement in his veins
When Mummy enters, saying, “Johnny, please,

PICK up your lego now, PUT away your pens,
TIDY up your soldiers, and I WILL not ask again:
You NEED a tidy bedroom, I’m EXPECTING you to try!”
But Johnny stands defiant, shouting “WHY?!”

Well, Mummy is exasperated, horrified and cross,
she shakes her head in anger and she’s really at a loss
She calls into the corridor to show the boy who’s boss,
And Daddy enters, standing by her side.
“Now look here, boy,” his dad begins, “let’s lay it on the line:
I shouldn’t have to talk like this to any son of mine.
When Mummy gives an order you should smile and answer, ‘Fine!
I shall obey with pleasure and with pride!’

DON’T answer back, my boy, DO as you’re told
you MAY think it’s clever and you MAY think it’s bold
but BAD things can happen if you GIVE the wrong reply!”
But Johnny, slightly smiling, answers, “WHY?”

Well Daddy looks at Mummy now, and Mummy looks at Dad.
“D’you think that we should tell him?”  “Yes, I think we better had!”
Outside the weather worsens till it’s frighteningly bad
And dripping darkness gathers round the room
Daddy drops his voice as if he’s whispering in fear
Johnny has to hold his breath and turn his head to hear
“My boy,” his Daddy whispers, “there’s a fearsome buccaneer:
the Whyrate Captain, coming to your doom!

PLEASE pick your words, my lad, DON’T let him come!
TRY a little harder John, for ME and your mum!
IF the Whyrates come for you it REALLY is goodbye!”
But Johnny, rather shaken, answers, “Why?”

Oh, Heaven only help us!  What a stupid thing to say!
Johnny looks in shock, as both his parents back away
Their hands are up in panic as the black and stormy day
Begins to shake the window in its frame!
Then SMASH! goes the glass as lightning streaks across the sky
The wind goes whipping round them as his parents turn to fly
And through the crashing darkness Johnny hears a shrieking cry,
“We’ve got him lads!  The Whyrates stake their claim!”

IN through the window comes a GRINNING, swarthy man
a QUESTION mark the cutlass that he’s WAVING in his hand
“COME, lad,” he wheezes, “you are JUST our type of guy!”
And Johnny, frozen, barely whispers “Why?”

“Ya-HAR!” The captain bellows in a whirlwind of glee,
“I knew it lads, this boy’s the one!  We’re taking him to sea!”
And quick as thought he grabs him with a one and two and three
and bundles Johnny through the rising dark
Now, maybe you’d be frightened – I am sure I’d yell for aid
If a bunch of crazy Whyrates hauled me off upon a raid
But Johnny, little Johnny, he is not one bit afraid –
Instead, he thinks, “At last! I’ve made my mark!”

OUT of the garden now and INTO the night
BACK through the gloom his bedroom DISAPPEARS from sight
OFF to the shoreline where a SAIL obscures the sky
And stitched in silver letters – simply, ‘WHY?’

Now Johnny doesn’t know it, but these Whyrates he has met
are about the most notorious of villains you could get
and many weary kingdoms are unlikely to forget
the day the Whyrates sailed into their shores
And what is it that makes them just so deadly and so feared?
Is it all the men they’ve murdered?  All the children they have speared?
Well, no – in fact the truth of it is really rather weird:
They simply ask what’s not been asked before!

WHY should the people have to BOW before the king?
WHY should the government rule EVERY little thing?
WHY should so much be owned by OH so very few?
And no-one anywhere has any clue!

And so it is in Bannerland, a country miles away
Whose population struggles just as Johnny’s whisked away
The lives that people lead there – well, I hardly like to say –
you can hear them weeping, wailing in the streets!
They live around the palace where the crazy King does lie,
just taking – never giving – in a bed that’s warm and dry
His dungeons break the bedrock and his turrets split the sky
while folks below must work so he can eat.

SUCH is their misery that NOBODY has thought
to ASK of anyone how this has COME to be their lot
When OUT of the east upon a FOAMING ocean swell
The Whyrates land, and Johnny’s there as well!

Well word gets to the Palace, and the King jumps from his bed
Shivering and shaking, comfort overcome by dread
“Burn the ship!” he hollers, “and I want the captain’s head!
We’ll have no questions here in Bannerland!”
But up from the harbour Whyrates bundle by the score
A ripple of inquiry from the palace to the shore
And Bannerlanders flock to them, all asking more and more,
determined that it’s time to make a stand.

“WHY should we help a man who TREATS his people thus?
WHY should we think of one who NEVER thinks of us?
WHY should we hold him up, when REALLY, he should fall?”
The Whyrates crackle-cackle through it all.

Well Johnny stands in wonder and delight at what he sees
As questions shake the kingdom like a tempest through the trees
And Johnny thinks, “You know, this is my realm of expertise,
I think I’ll go and see what happens now!”
And there, before his very eyes a miracle begins
The palace starts to crumble as the King goes mad within
And the jangling of treasure can be heard above the din
as gold and silver spill across the ground!

GOLD for the beggar-men, GOLD for the slaves
JEWELS for the serving girls in SPARKLE-jingled waves
FOOD for the hungry and CLOTHES for them to wear
(Of course, the Whyrates take a modest share!)


Well that was just the start, of course, of Johnny’s long career
He travelled with the Whyrates out to countries far and near
Starting revolutions everywhere they would appear
A simple question, then it’s back to sea
But when at last he wearied of the buccaneering days
He travelled bravely homewards through the tumble tossing waves
To Mummy, and to Daddy, and that’s where our Johnny stays,
A most obliging son, they both agree!

And IF he should grow weary, and BEGIN it all once more
and START to grumble grumpily when ASKED to sweep the floor
say “WHY should I go back to life the WAY it always was?”
Well, Mum and Dad just smile, and say, “Because!"
For children, obviously!
2.8k · Oct 2017
Edges
Alan McClure Oct 2017
I'm paying
for the careless laughs
I cast
at my poor mother in the past
when she would cringe
and turn away
as we sought edges
to enhance our play.
High trees and rooftops
cliffside walks -
whatever would extend the view
beyond the grim grey
granite grip we knew.
The humour lay
in knowing we were safe,
that these short frissons
were a break
between long stretches
of mundane and easy comfort,
free from pain.
Perhaps, we thought,
it does her good to gasp and shudder,
shout and blame -
she knows
that nothing's gained by shouting "Not too close!"
That just extends the game.
And then we're home
and she, once more, is sane.

That un-won wisdom
taunts me now.
The thought that fear was rare, somehow
that each new feat
of daring was a treat
the spice and colour
in a mother's life
which otherwise was dull.

Then, suddenly, my children,
you appear
and now I fear
that everything's
a crumbling clifftop
a wind-bent,
beetle-brittle branch
that you are twisted
in the fickle hands of chance
Your precious whims
your pale, glass-fragile skins
are buffeted by everything.
All ice is thin -
the wolves are real
it was not just the wind.

And even here
upon the edge of morning
misfired wires
inside your precious head
could make a storm-tossed life-raft
of your cozy bed
I stand beside you, out of reach
though long prepared
to meet the reason I am scared.
You curl and shrink
turn glassy eyes towards the wall

while I await the blow
that, thank God, doesn't fall,
this time
my youthful self
has found a cliff to climb
above a rocky beach
and cackles
at his mother's panicked call.
2.7k · Dec 2012
Resurrection
Alan McClure Dec 2012
Christmas died with Santa Clause
when I reached a certain age.
The magic revealed as scam,
the wonder now an act
maintained for the sake of form.

This descended, in my teens,
into outright distaste -
all the trappings
a failed attempt
to light a lost wonderland;
a decorated tree
incongruous and distasteful
as a chimp in a suit.

Anger waned,
disinterest set in,
and I merely wished to avoid it all.

But through your eyes
a miracle occurs:
Papa Noel, mistaking his season,
makes an Easter of Christmas
by rising triumphant.
A tinsel star becomes a true Polaris
and love,
for anybody's sake,
is everything.
2.7k · Jan 2012
Exclusive
Alan McClure Jan 2012
Johnny can't join
his daddy has no car
Michael can't join
they don't like his shoes
Ahmed can't join
he has a funny name
Bobby can't join
supports the wrong team

"What's going on?"
bellows the red-faced teacher
"You can't treat each other like this!
"Have you ever been excluded?
"Yes?
"And how
"did it make you feel?"

He ushers them in, muttering
though somewhat gratified
by the shame in their eyes

Then herds them through
to assembly
where the guest of honour
is the minister
who proceeds to explain
to the obediently seated rows
that if they don't see things his way
they will be eternally,
terrifyingly
and agonisingly excluded
from the great big party in the sky

And the teacher hangs his head
in baffled complicity,
defeated.
2.7k · Jan 2013
Maxwell's Otter
Alan McClure Jan 2013
The movie shows
an innocent man,
misguided, perhaps,
but well intentioned
killing a creature
he thought to be a pest
and full of remorse
for the unhappiness he caused

In fact,
the man who killed Mijbil
never confessed
never repented
did it for gain
as otter pelts
were worth a bob or two.

A tiny ghost
haunts a ditch
by a single track road
in Scotland

And the vanished marshes of Iraq
know which version of events
to believe.
2.6k · Jan 2012
The Whale
Alan McClure Jan 2012
The sea cast a gift ashore
one stormy sullen day
and the barren rocky coast
was suddenly recast
as a natural history museum.

A whale.
A real whale, just lying there
shining on the shale

In another time,
we'd have known how to react.
This astonishing bounty
would have been quickly stripped
Bones for building
baleen for support
blubber and oil for fuel.

But now it lay
surrounded by detritus
made of better stuff.
The truth was,
we didn't really need it,
couldn't really use it,
like being presented with
Casablanca on VHS.

A sign appeared:
"Quad bike rides, £2",
red paint on rainsoaked cardboard.
I wasn't tempted.
Children poked it with sticks
in a desultory way,
stricken, intrigued, ashamed,
and utterly dwarfed.

The weeks passed
as we coughed in embarrassment
not knowing what to do,
until finally
someone brought a digger down
and discretely buried the beast.

By now, it will be a perfect skeleton
a prehistoric wonder
an artefact from unjaded days
when nature could still astonish,
trampled by unknowing tourists
as they dream of sunnier beaches.
2.6k · Nov 2016
White Supremacy
Alan McClure Nov 2016
Brothers,
let us stand together.
Sisters,
you can stay sitting.

Let us stand
united
by our inability
to stay out in the sun
too long.

In fact,
would someone mind
erecting a gazebo
for us to stand united
underneath?

Thank you.

Brothers,
having proven
that we cannot demonstrate
our superiority
through sport,
rhetoric,
mathematics,
music,
drama,
art,
science,
business acumen
or military might

Let us instead
prove it beyond all doubt
by gathering in groups
and chanting slogans.

Flags are good, too.
Dagnab it,
just look at the way
we can wave those flags.

If that
doesn't qualify us
as the Master Race,
then I don't know what will.

And thus anointed,
let us expunge the world
of miscegenation.
Let us cleanse public radio
of anything other
than Bavarian folk music.
Let us revel
in boiled beef
and wheat-based foods.
Let us return
the mineral wealth of the world
to the tarnished, coloured nations
from whence it came.

Let us reject
foreign mythologies
apart from that one
about Jesus
obviously.

Let us all return
to the country, town,
street
and house
of our birth.

History is with us, brothers.
If there's one thing
it teaches us
it's that nothing should ever change
and empires
never fall.

Sieg heil!
2.5k · Dec 2010
Blame
Alan McClure Dec 2010
Blaming Jesus
for Christianity
is like blaming Robin Hood
for the Soviet Union.
2.3k · Mar 2012
Dropout
Alan McClure Mar 2012
Early on
it was clear
I was coming nowhere in this race
and so my eyes began to wander,
pick out the daisies in the grass,
note the sweep of the horizon
and -
stop.
A long time,
the thunder of feet
fading into the distance,
leaving breeze,
bees
and other tranquilities.

Until a small man
in a tight suit
approached me with a clipboard.
"Ah," he said,
sycophantic smile
splitting his tanless dinnerplate
of a face,
"I see we have another
"like-minded soul!
"We'd like you to join
"the non-racing society!
"You can look at daisies all day long
"and at the end of every day
"we quantify who has done the best!"
And I, sad,
sat,
and wished the sky
would swallow me
whole.
2.2k · May 2012
Poetry Competition
Alan McClure May 2012
I am no expert,
no expert at all

But when I am compelled
to write a poem
the compulsion comes
from a pure wish
to distil a thought,
to communicate,
to ride language *******
across the open spaces
of my brain

But you would lasso me,
corral me,
shut the barn doors on me
and the lowing, braying herd
for some self appointed *****
to cast judgement

So that the best possible outcome
is that I step on the faces of others
on my way to institutionalised,
establishment-approved freedom

Well,
*******
and the horse
you wish you could have ridden in on.
I've been tempted to enter poetry competitions in the past, but I am delighted to say that I no longer have the slightest inclination to do so.  I'm sure most are genuine attempts to give poetry a higher profile, but what kind of profile is it when it makes art competitive?  If you don't win, you lose, by definition - but if you've managed to craft a poem to your own satisfaction, in what sense can you possibly have lost?
2.2k · Jan 2012
Resignation
Alan McClure Jan 2012
Well now, I used to teach.
I mean, I still do, but it's only for their benefit now, isn't it?
It's like the doctors and the greengrocers
and the streetsweepers and librarians,
still going through the motions
while they take recordings and what have you.
I guess we should be glad
that they're interested in the way we lived,
you know,
before they arrived.
But my kids, you know,
they're all actors.
They might learn the odd piece
of arcane knowledge
but I can tell they know
they don't need it.

No, no, I'm no rebel
I don't want any trouble.
Things are better since they arrived,
of course they are.
I mean, their technology -
we couldn't have come up with that
in a million years.
And they're very polite.
I have a colleague who says
this is because they feel guilty about their success,
but I don't know about that.
Things were bad for a while,
but I guess maybe that was our fault.
We didn't know how to react.
We adjusted poorly.
It's hard to accept that you're, you know,
obsolete.

Even me, you know.
For a while there I was,
well,
I was drinking a little too much.
It was hard, seeing the school destroyed.
They've done a good job
with the facsimile though.
even smells the same.

Yup,
can't complain.
Can't complain.
2.1k · Apr 2011
Dragons
Alan McClure Apr 2011
Cauld-bluided, humphing ower the stark grey hills
Gowd een skinkle to an fro
Split tongue lappin at the wind-blown smells
Bog grass blackens whaur ye go
Smoke split shielings and the clammerin o bairns
Bone cracked mithers in yer wake
Heirt-scaud ruin fae the valleys tae the cairns
Driven by a drouth ye canny slake
Crib tale shapit unner creakin heather thatch
Howf born craitur o the nicht
Auld sangs spake aboot the maidens ye would ******
Fleggit bairns tae keep intil the licht
True? Naw, havers, juist the blaflum o wives
God nivver biggit ocht sae fell
But ae bairn crouchin in the ruins o its life
Can think o naethin else the tale tae tell
Blin, lost, forwandert fae the shattered faimly hame
Warslin wi fear tae unnerstan
White winds whistle as he gies the beast a name
And dragons whiles can take the form o man.
2.1k · Jan 2012
Cut-up Poems by 10-year-olds
Alan McClure Jan 2012
i

I kind of knew
in the back
of my mind
that there was more
to come


ii

An urgent message
rings through the streets
"The Romans are at the gates!"

As soon as the news
reaches the house
giant catapults
start to pound the roofs
with rocks.


iii

Hoovering out
the cat hairs

scrubbing out
the loo



iv

The woman put her sad moon-face in
at the window of the car.
"You be good," she said.
"Yes, Momma," they said.
She slung her purse over her shoulder
and walked away.


v

Being James Bond
in miniature
is way cooler
than being a wizard.



vi

The park grew wild
and where we played football
the grass was torn
by the bombs



vii

At the time
everyone thought
that Elizabeth planned
to capture Mary.


viii

I'm so excited
I could burst
It's this cracking idea I've had
It's been worrying me away for weeks
It all started,
you see,
When I was showing some of my students
Where Greenland was on a map.


iix

Unbelievably,
the brown square
is identical
to the yellow square


ix

All us friends and relatives
are told to sit at the back
mind coats and bags
knowing our way
in the dark



x

Mum glared at Dad.
How many times
do I have to tell you
that the twins are called
James and Rebecca;
not Cheese and Tomato?

Granny shook
her head.


xi

The hard work
hopefully won't end
and we will stick together
no matter what


xii

Experimental
native style
knows
no boundaries



xiii

The fire detectors
are fitted
at regular intervals
along the tunnel



xiv

As an adult
Tarzan is once again
faced with the question of belonging
when he first meets humans
and discovers creatures
who look like himself.



xv

My heart misses a beat.
The girls have seen me
in my bikini.
They all gather around
looking and laughing at the sight.
How embarrassing!
It is a long way down.
I asked my class of ten-year-olds to find a random passage in whichever book they happened to be reading, and try chopping it up to make it sound and look like a poem.  These are some of my favourites.
2.0k · Nov 2011
Rite of Passage
Alan McClure Nov 2011
No tribal scarring marks your face
no cinder walk or thorn-pierced tongue
to prove you are no longer young
but fit to take your rightful place

Your generation never fought
And you have wished that you could see
the selfless, brave camaraderie
of which you were so often taught

Alas for you to fetch ashore
when we had lost our appetite
for making children go and fight
and briefly grieved, and said "No more!"

Condemning you, unreconciled,
to shed no blood, as real men should;
to feel that life is mostly good
Oh foolish knave!  Oh hopeless child!

And saddled with this gross mistake
your quiet kindness gently spread
and harmless fascinations fed
and left no corpses in their wake

To think we looked to one unmanned
as children, hungry for a clue
of what it's right for men to do,
led, blind,  by your unbloodied hand

Sought thoughts from one who could not brag
of marching forth to suicide
for waxed moustaches' sense of pride
Nor bleeding dry beneath a flag

But you had naught to tell us, save
that life is hopeful and sublime
and we should use this precious time
And I'll be grateful to the grave.
2.0k · Sep 2011
A Dog
Alan McClure Sep 2011
Folk with the real Scots,
guttural and glorious,
know me for the cushion-mouthed patsy I am

I can no more ape
that lyrical brilliance
than I can do a Grappeli on the fiddle
or tickle the keys Theloniously

And when I see
a lounge-room spaniel
howling feebly at the moon
frustrated wolf-blood
squirting through its scrawny veins

I know
exactly
how it feels.
1.9k · Nov 2010
Schrodinger's Curlew
Alan McClure Nov 2010
On the face of it, there isn't much about this bird
To stop me in my tracks.
             Brown, oblivious, busy with the ground
It totters along on stilted legs
Probing among the frozen fields.

It's the name that's the trouble.

Childhood hours spent copying pictures
From the Readers' Digest Book of Birds
Call to mind the name, 'Curlew'.
In my house, though, birds had Scots names
and my dad, a linguistic David Bellamy
Urged us to conserve these rare words
or lose them forever.
Goldfinch?  Gowdspink!
Starling?  Stuckie!
Blue ***?  Umm...

But the undistinguished gentleman before me
was definitely a whaup.

Curlew or whaup?
Which is it to me?
The English of books
or the fading Scots, maybe closer
to the bird's wild home?

Textbook reality
or romantic poetry?
Or both - can the creature sit
in two states at once?
"Schrodinger's Curlew", I think with a smile.
("Schrodinger's Whaup!" bellows the bit of my dad
that lodges in my head.)

           Here, under a cloud of my own breath
In the low winter light,
            Neither seems quite adequate.

And then, untouched by my musings
The bird spreads its wings and lifts,
Naming itself, with a long, pure note

          And my heart, in two states,
           Leaps
             and breaks.
- From Also Available Free
1.9k · Mar 2013
The Emperor's New Clothes
Alan McClure Mar 2013
No, no, no,
that's not how it happened at all.
Precocious children
have never been afforded that much influence
and Emperors, then as now
are largely unafflicted by shame.

And it's a good thing too
- why, if the story had gone
the way Anderson had it,
neither I nor any of the men of the town
would have our jobs
at the Magic Cloth factory

You do realise
that the trade in Magic Cloth
supports all the world's major economies now,
don't you?

Nor would the aristocracy
look half so stylish,
sashaying hither and thon
in the glorious altogether,
applauded by the taste-makers
and notably contemptuous
of child-like observation.
1.9k · Oct 2011
Archaeologist
Alan McClure Oct 2011
I have come to understand things
in a rational way.
Even love, that endless mystery,
can be broken down
into respect, reliance, trust and patience
With ample evidence available
for each category.

But a blast
from your long-ago eyes
destroys the shelves,
smashes the glass cases
and smothers the labels
in cryptic Pagan pictograms

I have no words,
only a feeling
warm and welcome
that something remains
forever, unexplained.
1.9k · Dec 2012
Alternative Endings
Alan McClure Dec 2012
(i)

It's no use
the legs aren't up to it anymore
and he's barely an eighth of the way up the mountain
when some kindly climbers
opt to help him down.
Confused and broken of spirit
he is returned to the home
and time stops passing once more.

(ii)

The fog whose descent
has sent him north
has one last trick to play:
though he reaches the top,
through bog and heather
and bone-weary exhaustion,

it is the wrong mountain.
He has misremembered the name
and all he finds at the hard-won cairn
is a gentle ***** down the other side
and a group of picnickers
who eye him with sympathy.

(iii)

A circle which was opened
when he was fourteen;
when a frozen night in a frozen tent
was swept aside
by a breathless climb
to a dazzling white peak -
Liathach -
and a view over crashing cliffs
into the wild blue
bore the thought,
"This, when the time comes,
is where I will end it!" -
is closed.
And the body joins
the half-flown soul
in the mist-swallowed distance
and beyond.
1.8k · Dec 2016
Feral Choir
Alan McClure Dec 2016
Transported
by the waves of sound
so transcendentally human
I am swallowed, surrounded

The basses are an ocean swell
the tenors, a hull of solid oak.
We stand upon the altos’ sturdy deck,
gaze upwards at soprano sails
swollen with song

What strange creatures we,
to join and mingle so
to vanish in the whole.
This ritual enacted
for this God, or that
has outlived immortals and still
floods with lifeblood

Anu, Enlil, Enki, Baal,
dived divinely
in the sea of song
and vanished.
Forgotten gods adrift
in harmony, in melody

And while I wish
all gods forgotten
I would abase myself
before Jehovah’s golden toes
to be a part
of this eternal choir.
1.7k · Nov 2012
Ash Dieback
Alan McClure Nov 2012
Gazing west,
we forget the North at our peril.
Frost giants die
for lack of attention
Bifrost molders in grimy skies
and the wild hunt
goes hungry again

Yggdrasil is dying.
As omens go,
this is not a good one.
1.7k · Dec 2010
Trade Not Aid
Alan McClure Dec 2010
I was walking on the seashore when I heard a fearful cry
I looked out across the water where a man was drifting by
"You've got to help!" he shouted, "There's a lifebelt in your reach,
"If you throw it to me quickly I'll get back onto the Beach!"
I hastily began to do exactly as he said
When a little word of warning made its way into my head.

"You reckon this will help," I said, "that is what you believe,
"But to trust short-term solutions here is hopelessly naive.
"You think the belt will save you, and for now maybe it would
"But to teach a faulty lesson here could do more harm than good
"You want something for nothing and that just is not the way
"In the sophisticated economic climate of today -
"You need trade!  You need trade, not aid
"You need trade!  I can't help until you've paid.
"You say that you're in trouble and my help is all you need
"But a culture of dependency is all that it would breed!"

"What's wrong with you, you maniac?" he answered with a yell,
"I'm drowning in the ocean and there's nothing here to sell!
"We can talk about your theories when I'm back upon the shore
"Now just throw the ****** life-belt out, I beg you, I implore!
"You have it in your power and you know that if you can
"You've a moral obligation to assist your fellow man!"

I told him, "You are selfish!  This is difficult for me,
"D'you think a drowning person is a pleasant thing to see?
"You shouldn't be in the water if you haven't learned to swim!"
He said "You no-good lousy *******, it was you who pushed me in!"
Well this kind of moral blackmail made me look at him, aghast
And say, "There really is no virtue here in dwelling on the past,
"You need trade!  You need trade, not aid
"You need trade!  I can't help until you've paid.
"You say that you're in trouble and my help is all you need
"But a culture of dependency is all that it would breed!"

"Don't be so pessimistic," I advised him, "you are rich!
"The sea in which you're drowning must be lowping full of fish!"
"If that's what you're relying on," he said, "to judge my wealth,
"Then you know that I have nothing, 'cos you caught them all yourself!"
I said, "Well, you can't argue with the laws of competition
"You were wasting time by drowning when you should have been out fishin'!"

When finally he died I said, "My brother, I will miss you,
"But maybe more importantly, you've highlighted an issue:
"Drowning is a problem, and believe me, now you're gone,
"I'll be on the phone to Geldof, Ultravox and Elton John.
"We'll organise a concert so that everyone can see
"That drowning is a menace, we should make it history!
"Using trade!  Using trade, not aid,
"Good, free trade, the grestest plan we've ever made,
"You say that you're in trouble and my help is all you need,
"But a culture of dependency's a rotten thing to breed!"
Alan McClure Sep 2011
I still think of you
when I hear a song that moves me
And wonder what it would follow
on the tape I wish I could make you.
This is the standing stone
on an emotional landscape
that has changed as fast as technology,
seen music shift from soulfood
to occasional backdrop
and solitary teenage bedrooms morph
to joyful family homes (thank God).

I wouldn't go back -
but here's a song, unexpected, blissful
which can't quite touch me as it should
Because I can't press 'record',
watch the reels go round
and imagine you listening
when the tape crosses the country
and fetches up at your front door.

No more padded envelopes
nor blotted biro liner notes;
no more declarations hidden in plain sight
in ninety minutes of love
I knew no other way to send.
1.7k · Dec 2015
To Saint George
Alan McClure Dec 2015
Arise Great Britain, swell wi pride
this is no time tae split, divide,
a hero needs us on his side
a man apart
Brave Osbourne comes wi manly stride
and lion heart

When danger ca’s, he stauns and fights
He’ll haud the baddies bang tae rights
Nou in their een he sees the whites
and yells, “Attack!”
He’s got oor mojo in his sights –
He wants it back!

Let’s cheer his valour tae the roof
Condemn the wans wha’d cry him couff
And pray oor Geordie’s bulletproof
As on he flies
Then fit him wi a parachute
and wave guidbye.

This GM perfect Tory clone
need not rely on un-manned drone
He’ll tackle ISIS on his own
their fight dissolve
His pores squirt pure testosterone
his eyes, resolve

Just watch the baddies turn and flee
as George, wi patriotic glee
wreaks vengeance for democracy
a one-man dojo
And cries, “Come, Britain, flock to me,
and feel my mojo!”

Or mibbes we should check this twice.
Although the image may be nice
The blood we risk on his advice
may never stop -
But Geordie will not sacrifice
one ****** drop

These profiteering pinstripe ******
wha ken no life but politics
Are no the first tae play these tricks
while deals are made
Why no just wave a crucifix
and shout “Crusade!”

So hooses burn and horror grows
A stream o misery outflows
While braggard Geordie struts and crows,
"Ye want a fight?"
I’d dump him on Damascus road
tae see the light

Ye plot the death o innocents
Tae score yir points in parliament
Yir fascist mocking o dissent
it suits ye well
George Osbourne, ye're a proper gent
**** ye tae hell.
1.7k · Sep 2011
Viewpoint
Alan McClure Sep 2011
In long
September light
Knocktinkle viewpoint draws
elastic shadows over rocks
and minds

Buzzard
like a hyphen,
a golden-feathered pause
between these eyes and everything
they see

I have
no thoughts up here.
They stayed below, waiting
while I saw sunset stripe the hills
with gold

This land
tells tales to those
who have not lost the tongue
But I, a stranger, look with love
and guess

A glen
where witches danced
and weary hunters trod
tonight rolls peaceful down towards
the sea.
1.7k · Nov 2010
Tongue Twister
Alan McClure Nov 2010
Betty Botter bravely brought her
best out putting pen to paper
built a book both brave and brittle
based it on the bitter battle
she had fought to beat the bottle
blossomed bigger, better, brighter
got the right to be a writer
Brought the book to Bertie Baxter
Baxter's Bookstore's biggest buyer
but the buyer was no biter
he thought vampire books were better
Tried to bate her and berate her
and belittle Betty Botter
bad benighted ******* bade her
"Be more like the bigger hitters!"
Better bet your bottom dollar
Betty Botter's ****** bitter.
Someone else could probably do this better, but hey-**.
1.7k · Jan 2016
Flood
Alan McClure Jan 2016
It was the high water
brought her out.
Her and half the town,
standing, awed
by the rush and surge.
Though the rain had stopped,
the sky was heavy with it
Grey on grey
on swirling grey,
but she -

Caught unawares by the moment,
she had joined the crowd
in a dressing gown
the pink of parted lips.
A slight figure,
bare legs slender
to the dark wet ground.
She dazzled accidentally,
black hair careless
over slim shoulders,
arms wrapped round herself
against the cold

A vision
of such sudden vulnerability
it would lay a strong man low.

Across the street
I saw an old man gazing,
the flood forgotten
in the glare of her.
Flat cap
wax jacket
paused mid-step,
she with her back to him,
oblivious.

I averted my eyes,
not wishing to know
if his thoughts were fatherly
or something else.

The river rose
and gorged itself
and there was nothing
we could do.
1.7k · Feb 2011
In Praise of Insecurity
Alan McClure Feb 2011
"I believed I was right," he says,
then leaves.
Not escorted by guards -
no cuffs in sight.  Free
to make his next after-dinner speech
and pick up the fee.

Some may complain, protest
that this dog, unsleeping, may not lie
but others think "He did what he thought best,
"God knows, there's too little faith these days!"

Say it was politic.
Say it was a compromise,
the lesser evil.
Say even that it was unwise.
Admit that one man
cannot feel so many deaths
and so should not try.

But do not fly like a flag
a security of faith,
a surety of right
that ***** a nation
condemning
countless
howling
thousands
to a voiceless end.

If you still cannot see
that you might have been wrong
then you are unfit
to call yourself
human.
1.7k · Sep 2011
Shell
Alan McClure Sep 2011
Victoria Falls
with all its mighty battering roar
was merely background noise
as I wondered what Camilla was thinking of me.

Machu Picchu from the sun-gate at dawn?
I was distracted by Helen,
and whether she'd keep in touch
when she returned to Britain.

Debbie eclipsed the solar eclipse -
The outback rolling into premature darkness
spectacular, sure
but nothing to what she was doing to my heart.


But you and I
feel the simple Scottish lawn
beneath our four feet
together, complete.
1.6k · Nov 2011
Scots Proverbs
Alan McClure Nov 2011
My friend published a book
of collected Scots Proverbs.
200 pages and more, filled
with countless ways of saying
"Don't show off."

And that precious wisdom,
generations in the making
percolated through smokey thatch
in dismal dripping glens,

Tattooed into tenement bricks
with the soot of dead industry,
added to the diet
with the excess salt and saturated fat,

Paving the roads
on which all ambition travels south,
And fizzing through the lager
on its way to the head

Now hangs around the kids
like the stink around an ashtray
and stifles any pride
they might invest in themselves.

They will pass it on
with their genes
and their endless disappointments,
despising anyone who rises
above the station
at which they are
eternally delayed.
Alan McClure Jun 2013
The sad thing is
I could have justified my instruction
with the simplest of reasons.
I would not have asked
a harmful or a wicked task of him
and I could have explained that
with perfect clarity.
But in the instant that he asked 'Why?'
my patience failed
and I said, 'Because I told you to.'

The implied threat was sufficient
and the task was done, satisfactorily.

If I had only known
that I would become one in a long line
planting furrow after furrow of bitter seeds
in this young man's head,
each of which would grow
into the toxic blossom of blind obedience
I would have checked myself that day.

But I did not.

And any inquest worth its salt
would line me up beside him,
beside parents, teachers, priests,
drill sergeants, generals, presidents

A line of dominoes
aimed remorselessly
at a smiling young woman with a placard
in a park, in Istanbul.
This is my second attempt at a response to the brutal crushing of protests in Turkey.  It's hard not to just roar and grieve, casting blame at this or that institution: but I try to remind myself that every officer who pulled a trigger is an individual who was set on that path by something, some set of circumstances in his past.  We don't come to brutality by ourselves.  This got me wondering about our shared complicity and what, if anything, starts this hideous journey off: the best I could come up with was the institutionalised tradition of 'following orders' and unquestioningly accepting authority.  And I immediately saw my own role in that.

The notes are longer than the poem - that indicates a lack of success!
1.6k · Feb 2011
Aspiration
Alan McClure Feb 2011
I hope one day
to write a poem
with no title
and no words
but I have a long way to go
before I'm good enough to try it
1.6k · Nov 2012
Rant
Alan McClure Nov 2012
Work your fingers raw for a pittance
and you wish one day to bid good riddance
to your destiny,
good riddance to your destiny
Looking up you see them grinning down
but ask why they keep winning
and they'll label you the enemy
they'll label you the enemy
So you've got three kids and you're ******
because your salary's been cut
and you're burning up the furniture
you're burning up the furniture
Well they can trace their ****** blood generations
and their current lordly station
is their holy primogeniture
it's their holy primogeniture
You can sing and dance apologise and grovel
You can mark your x and ******* to the hovel
that you'll never own
the hovel that you'll never own
Meanwhile they will never leave the school
that tells them they are born to rule
till we vote the buggers on the throne
we vote the buggers on the throne
This land ain't your land
this land ain't my land
not the Glasgow dockyard
nor the empty Highland
this land is their land
it's bleed you dry land
and you'll be laid to rest here
beneath the wonder why land.
1.6k · Sep 2011
Doubts
Alan McClure Sep 2011
I am not wracked by doubts:
I am enlivened,
enthralled
and awakened by them.
1.6k · Feb 2011
Ross Bay
Alan McClure Feb 2011
My pulse is slowed by the tide
that sighs twice daily
over the sparkling mud,
a slow scatter of wading birds at its heels.

Inhale and brambles dot the hedgerow,
purpling our mouths -
exhale and the snowdrops are back,
advance guard of a trumpetting spring
as the circling bay holds the circling year
in its silver grey water.

Our house plays host
to dramas and dreams
but they are beautifully small
in the middle of this
and I have never been so at home.

The trees planted themselves decades ago
in preparation for our boys.
The sea rose and fell for shelled and pebbled eons
that there might be the perfect clatter
when Fergus leaps from the rocks and runs
into the waves
and if three cars go by
within an hour
we say, "Christ, it's busy today!"

This, and us, is home.
- From Also Available Free
1.6k · Jan 2012
Amphibians
Alan McClure Jan 2012
The trip would be flawless -
water splashing, echoed shrieks in chlorinated sunlight -
except for these baffling creatures
patrolling the pool

Up and down they go,
up and down,
staring daggers straight ahead
and daring you to get in their way

Rubber hats and plastic eyes,
folded skin, wrinkled
like deflated dinghies
doggedly paddling
their pointless journeys.

A bit like clockwork bath toys,
but not as entertaining.

The safety notices are wasted on them.
No petting?
I should ****** well think not.
Bombing?  Ducking?  Anything fun at all?
Up, down,
up
and down.
Relentless as the baddies
in a ZX Spectrum game,
stuck in their lanes,
joyless.

They were there when I was six
and they're still there, you know,
a few more wrinkles now,
up
(and down),
spilling out their black slick second skins.
Whatever it was they were looking for,
the search
isn't improving their moods.
1.6k · Feb 2011
Compost
Alan McClure Feb 2011
Crisp clear light of a not-quite spring
picks out the round black bin
quietly digesting the stuff of yesterday
Discreetly concealing
the thrumming, busy business of decay

The next act is approaching
in which we find
that nothing is lost or wasted
and the audience sighs with relief

Hoping
that the mulch
of lost loves, discarded wishes
and broken beliefs
will prove as fertile
as the rich brown muck within
the round black bin.
- From Also Available Free
1.6k · Oct 2013
Road Blocked by Frogs
Alan McClure Oct 2013
Grim grey day
starts in the dark,
grumbles, glowers
shoulders hunched
Everyone in bitter agreement -
"Miserable!"
Rain driven against windows,
streaming pavements,
shoe-squelched curses
cast at baleful sky.

Travelling home at last,
raincoat defeated
tricklebacked discomfort,
Windscreen wipers ten to the dozen
under sopping sorrowful trees,
headlights strobing relentless rain

And -

Those aren't leaves.
What are they?
Tumbling across the road,
crisscrossing parabolas
of peculiar joy

Frogs!

I stop:
I have to.
The night is alive
with manic delight
as secret creatures fling caution to the wind
and bound into sight,
into frantic celebration,
unphased by cars, by foolish bipeds
who thought this planet was theirs -

Open mouthed and uninvited
I gaze, displaced and foolish
for not knowing
It is,
it is the most beautiful night
that could possibly be imagined.
1.5k · Jan 2013
Sustainable Development
Alan McClure Jan 2013
A countless headed monster
rampaged through the village yesterday
smashing everything in its wake
befouling the water
and devouring my whole family
in its slathering jaws.

It really was no consolation
that it brushed its teeth afterwards.
1.5k · Dec 2014
Iliop (Lazy Sheepdog)
Alan McClure Dec 2014
I know my motives
and they're far from pure -
The lengths I will go to
for a pat on the head.

And then there's you -
you, with your pure indifference
and your thousand words for soil

Reminding me
that real art
is its own reward
And that I have created none.

But oh!
I am grateful for the lesson,
for the knowledge of the destination
and the chance
to be on my way.
1.5k · Jan 2016
Winter in a Seaside Town
Alan McClure Jan 2016
Icy dock
bump and knock
one gull huddles
on a cold black rock

frozen feet
driving sleet
tethered by the weather
like the landed fleet

gull spreads wings
north wind sings
rumble and a mumble
as the pub door swings

step inside
drink is tried
filling up and spilling
like the storm-surge tide

howl and din
locks you in
ice goes slicing
through your winter skin

knock them down
drink and drown
bleezin empty season
in a seaside town
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