Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Alan McClure Mar 2011
She was the face of the century.
We'd all believed the age of heroes was past
but she was the real thing -
brilliant, brave beyond belief and wise,
and the planet - the whole planet -
was proud to have her as ambassador.

And when the broadcast arrived,
proof that we had spanned the solar system
and set foot on another planet,
every Earthling eye gazed, every ear strained,
so as not to miss a word.


Martian sky.  Red dust.  Second transmission.

"I know...
"I know you are watching me.
"I know that this is the moment,
"the moment you have waited for.
"Seven months ago I left you.  It's hard
"to hold your breath for seven months!"

Across the globe, people laughed and gasped.

"Seven months."

A pause.

"Seven months, and enough money
"To end poverty
"across most of the Earth."

Heads were scratched.
Where was this going?

"Well, everyone, here I am.
"I can see you, you know.  A star,
"A dot in the black - that's you.
"And that dot -
"Oh, that precious, beautiful dot!"

Eyes moistened.  Friends embraced.

"Where every speck of dust is a home
"for something.
"Where even the forgotten scrapings
"Of last week's dinner
"plays host to LIFE!
"Air to breathe!
"Water to drink!
"So many, many things to love!"

Thirty two seconds of silence.

"Why did you send me here?"

Fifty three seconds of silence.

"This is hell."

And with that
she placed the camera on a tripod
stood before it
and removed her helmet.

The once fierce eyes
quickly bulged and reddened
skin puckered and peeled,
frost scorched and suffocated
lips, best known for forming momentous words
turned first blue then purple
and blood flowed freely
from her nostrils.
She slumped, fell,
knocked over the camera.

End of transmission.

The whole broadcast had lasted just seven minutes.

She was already dead by the time we heard the first word.
- From Also Available Free
Alan McClure Feb 2014
We spent a day in space
because the Hendersons did it last month,
and the Jeffreys the week before that.
It was all they talked about at dinner
and their eyes sparkled
in a way I hadn't seen before.

You can pack light.
It's only a day, after all.
Maria and the kids were nervous
but I told them not to worry,
just to concentrate on the in-flight movie.
The kid in the seat behind
kept kicking my chair,
which was annoying.

To be honest
it was just like a normal flight at first,
out the window gazing
at the other shuttles coming home,
pressed into your seat
by the g-force.

But then you break through the ionosphere
and you're weightless.
It's quite cool.
Jessica got some good pictures of Earth.
I was looking at the floating stewardess, mostly.

It's one of those things, though -
you can't really appreciate it when it's happening.
You have to look back on it.
I'm pretty sure the grandeur,
the magnificence of human ingenuity
and the joy of returning to Mother Earth's comforting embrace

Will hit me any day now.
Excuse me, my phone's ringing.
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
how it feels.
Alan McClure Oct 2016
we unleashed
a roomfull
of energy
didn't we
our songs
brief anthems
for happy strangers
the floor
rocked, bounced
under spinning bodies
we did that
we did
then spent
we left the stage
sweat wet
and hoarse
in our ears
for the consequences
and finding
there were none.
Alan McClure Dec 2012

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.


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.


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.
Alan McClure Nov 2015
Behind one door of course
is a giant room, indistinct
colours coming into focus
shapes forming meaning
patterns establishing
coalescent understanding
huge, oh huge!

Another door reveals
hard edges, firmer lines
things to lift and move
a catalogue of voices
swaying rows of figures
regulated, rigorous

Now a third door
opens on a shared space
merging pictures
hybrid hopes
budding, blooming
memories of the first door
memories of the second door.

Many more passed
and one more opened
on a tiny room
senses shrivelled
fog and white noise
an anteroom, a cell
grim and hopeless, sure

But always, the corridor.
Alan McClure Jan 2011
In early days, man strode
beneath wide wild skies
reading the landscape with understanding eyes,
forgetting the paths of the women and children.
Wood and hill he paced,
silent, stealthy, alone,
solitude his defence against idleness,
solitude the means by which the Earth spoke to him,
and the state in which experience, memory and thought
bred music, poetry and story.

Times change, of course
and I begrudge not one second
in your company.
But if I willingly submit
to being sounding board for your day's plans;
to being a climbing frame for the boys,
or to answering the question,
"What are you doing?" with smiling candour,

Then perhaps you can forgive me
if I happen to spend
more time than you
in the one room in the house
with a lock on the door.
- From Also Available Free
Alan McClure Sep 2014
She doesn't rush to judgement
when my resolutions crumble
when my morals take a tumble
she can help them to their feet
She can hold onto the good times
when the bad times try to find her
try to deafen and to blind her
she dismisses their deceit
She has seen me as a ruin
when my failures all unmask me
when the black eyed dog attacks me
and I don't know what I am
When the human race deserts me
I'm rejected and reviled
I'm a helpless little child
still she lets me be a man
And I cannot long be broken
though the clouds begin to gather
When I realise I have her
And she calmly calls their bluff
And her wisdom reassures me
I'll have little call to save her
though I would return the favour
just to love her is enough.
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,
and down.
Relentless as the baddies
in a ZX Spectrum game,
stuck in their lanes,

They were there when I was six
and they're still there, you know,
a few more wrinkles now,
(and down),
spilling out their black slick second skins.
Whatever it was they were looking for,
the search
isn't improving their moods.
Alan McClure Dec 2010
Through the passion, the anger
and the bold assertions
it may be hard to see
that I would rather not be talking about this

And the wider I spread my arms,
and the louder my voice becomes
the more I long for silence
and a solitude which asks no confirmation

Opinions are contagious
language, a game which you lose
by explaining that you don't want to play

And each concession I draw from you
each square of common ground we find
is one step further
from the hilltop I wish I was on
if you don't mind.
- From Also Available Free
Alan McClure Feb 2011
A swan splits the stillness of the old mill pond
in the long low light of morning
White frost has settled on the bank behind
and on a figure who is sitting
head held in his hands

He looks at the moon as it fades away
from silver into nothing
His breath hangs like mist around his old grey head
and his cloudy eyes aren't blinking

And he can't recall how he got here
or the world he left behind
and his tracks in the grass they are fading fast
from the ground and from his mind

His feet are in slippers and an old bath-robe
is hanging round his shoulders
His cheeks they are flushed as if he's safe and warm
though he couldn't be much colder
fading away

He may look foolish but he is no fool
for coming here today
For the cold grey bank becomes a time-machine
and the years just fall away
fall away

Annabel, the sun shines just for you
This moment here will make the year come true
And I can't believe my eyes
when you turn to me and smile
you take my breath away, that's what you do
In this gold, this gold
this golden afternoon

Now you strip and slip through the ripples of the old mill pond
And you laugh at the fact of the scandal in the town beyond
But if they could only see the way you laugh and look at me today
They'd be caught in the moment like you'd waved a magic wand
Oh Annabel my love

His son and his daughter are the first to hear
and they think it is a kindness
Long gone was the father they had known and loved
and this living loss they'd witnessed
Now they can rest

The men from the council say the pond must go
and they fill it in that winter
But ears to the ground you can still hear the sound
of a young man and his lover
as they laugh and swim together
in the golden summer weather
the way
they will stay
Alan McClure Apr 2011
Someone has defaced my library book.
Gone to the trouble of reading, pencil in hand,
ready should the opportunity arise again.
The graffiti is hilariously specific:
at every mention the author makes of England,
my fellow reader has added angry punctuation -
question marks, exclamation marks or,
at moments of presumed frustration,
simply scored the word through.
The book is by Kurt Vonnegut,
an American humanist
who would doubtless have sought to avoid such deep offense
but who would have had no earthly reason for imagining
that a Scot somewhere, years after his death,
would ignore the story,
the tragedy, the humour and the beauty in the prose
so fired up was he by his conviction
that Kurt should have written 'Britain' instead of 'England'.

You see,
proud Scots are often peeved
when the rest of the world pays as little attention to them
as they pay to the rest of the world.
So it goes.
Alan McClure Nov 2012
For a modest subscription -
say, £100 a month -
you can receive my weekly newsletter
outlining the manner in which I undertake
to steal your jobs,
besmirch your womenfolk
(or menfolk, if you like),
impose my religion upon you,
undermine your financial system,
eat the swans in your local park,
raise/lower house prices (as your current need dictates),
contribute to a nameless sense of dread,
dilute your cherished national identity
and produce more illiterate children than the welfare state
can reasonably support.

I will do you this service
on the understanding
that you will stop attributing blame
to your undeserving neighbours
and get on with your life
like a decent human being.
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.
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.
Alan McClure Oct 2012
you can surely tell
that I feel the indignity of the situation
by the way I cannot meet your eye.
Yes, I look ridiculous,
but nature has called
and I must answer.
**** to a tree,
heels on the ground,
vulnerable -
it's not the image
my wolfen ancestors
would wish you to observe.

No, I'm no great fan
of the substance I produce,
but you needn't wrinkle your nose -
it was you who led me here, after all,
and I'm sure yours is no sweeter.

I'll make you a deal:
you avert your eyes
while I take care of this
and I'll avert mine
and pretend not to notice
when you pick it up carefully in a bag
and carry it around.
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
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!
Alan McClure Jan 2015
A black maid enters.
Cowed, inarticulate,
she makes obeisance to her mistress,
our erstwhile heroine.

She is given a menial task
in a perfunctory fashion,
and you thrill at this splash
of historical colour.

But her mistress's command
is irrelevant.  She is fully engaged
with two vital functions
with which I have entrusted her.

The first: she has bathed our heroes
in moral ambiguity -
she is a shortcut to complexity,
rendering the important characters
doubly fascinating,
bathing them in pathos.

The second: she has pleased you
as you recognise your own outrage:
"Why must she be black?
Why can't they treat her better?
Don't we live in finer times, you and I?"
And a happy reader
is a reader who will proceed,
enlivened, vindicated, affirmed.

And thus freshly enslaved,
she returns
to the sculleries of my imagination
as we press nobly on.
Alan McClure Jul 2013
A vicious dog came prowling in to bite and terrorise
feasting on the beautiful, creative and the wise
Chewing their creations and their principles to dust
Leaving all their brilliance to crumble, fade and rust
A snarling, grinding horror issued from its ****** jaws
the sound rolled all around me like a wave of black applause
I gathered my defences and prepared to go down well
My work would be my armour to defeat this hound of hell
My courage at the sticking point, my words in serried ranks
my songs and poems all arranged like waiting Sherman tanks
As those who had inspired me were cast down in their prime
I knew the beast was coming, it was nearly closing time
But just as I prepared myself to triumph or to die
The wretched creature shook itself and passed me right on by
It glanced just once behind it with a look that seemed to say,
"You poor, deluded fool - I didn't want you anyway!"
Alan McClure Dec 2016

See that yin?
Jist sittin there?
Ye ken how she’s sittin like that, don’t ye?
Well, whit’s she sittin oan?
Aye, her erse.
She’s only sittin like that
So ye ken she’s got an erse.
Gaggin fir it.

An whoa, check that yin!
Wearin claes!
Filthy cow!
Whit dae ye mean, “Whit dae ah mean”?
Ye canny wear claes
If ye huvny got a boady, can ye?
That’s right –
Just screamin it, so she is –
“Check oot ma boady!”

Aye, ah wull an aw!
Don’t mind if ah dae!

Aw, mate – that yin!
That yin ower there!
Bendin her airm!
See her?
Bendin her airm like a mucky ****!
That’s so ye ken
She’s got elbows!
Phwoar, I ken your type hen –
you wi yir elbows an a’thin!
Desperate fur it, aren’t ye?

An man!  This yin,
walkin towards us!
Breathin in an oot!
Whit a slapper!
Breathin in an oot!
Aye, ye need a pair o lungs tae dae that,
I bet, eh, hen?
A pair o fine, functioning lungs!
Aye, you use them, doll –
dinny you be shy!
Ah’m no!

Aw pal, haud me back!
This yin!
This yin eatin a meat pie!
Shameless wee ****!
Aw yeah, baby,
I ken whit that means!
Mean’s ye’ve got yirsel
a **** wee digestive tract in there, no?
Ye dinny hae tae spell it oot tae me, love!
Probably got a pair o kidneys
tucked away in there too,
ye ***** wee *****!

Aw the same, ur they no?
Aw ae thum.
Gantin oan it.
Alan McClure Nov 2010
By the night-light's orange glow
I hold you,
Long after you have settled
Jealous of the years which wait
to take you from my arms
To schools and shorelines,
to woods,
to streets,
to parties, parks and pubs
While here and now, all you need
is my heartbeat
in your ear.
Alan McClure Jan 2013
Hunkered down
against tides and waves
they allow themselves
a certain satisfaction

Cold currents surge past,
bringing them all they need
shifting them not one jot

But in those currents
their own young course and swirl
adrift, alive,

And the barnacles wonder
whether they may, perhaps,
be missing something.
Alan McClure Aug 2016
See her,
skinny lassie -
so aware,
stood there
at the counter.

The eyes
lifted from papers,
hooded and guilty,
under sunglasses.

She knows nothing,
she's in charge.
Bless her.
Whatever's going to break her
hasn't happened yet.

Makes me shudder,
the thought.
The painful innocence.
"Just a fruit smoothie, please!"
she sparkles
at the man.
Thinks his approval
is unloaded,
worth seeking.

No eyes on me.
Glances fall off me.
If I catch a look,
I see it turn
to embarrassment,
or scorn.

Firing blanks, guys.
I'll take those
over possessiveness,
crawling promises.
Over saccharine
strangler smiles,
over violence, veiled
as love.
Your attention is toxic.
Better show it as such.

"Chips and cheese, please,"
I wheeze,
and his sneer
is a klaxon
of cruel jokes
he'll share with colleagues later.

are the tiny victories
of victimhood,
as the twirling girl inside
stays protected,
Alan McClure Jul 2015
Startled by the crack they launch,
spread wings and soar
through rising summer breeze

Perfect black symmetry
wingtip to wingtip
recalling the first flight of courtship
seven years before

Circle the ripening corn
living the wind
feeling the sky
tilt, turn, circle again

Black eyes cast below
they see a figure,
watching, waiting
rifle lowered, patient

And she begins to falter
to mistrust the surging sky
her element, suddenly unmastered

He is oblivious, effortless.
Spiralling, alighting,
he turns his curious gaze
to seek his mate

And finds only empty blue
where she should be.
Alan McClure Dec 2016
There is always someone
to say, "Ah, but..."
when we weep
at little tragedies.
Striding gurus
whose far-reaching sight
passes over little corpses
to seek out the Big Picture.
And you dry your eyes
and you feel foolish
for thinking little ones matter.

Big names are tossed around.
Patterns passing back
through blackened ages
History degrees
dusted off,
chins stroked,
lofty knowledge
powerfully deployed

Churchill manifests
all black and white and grim.
Roosevelt and Stalin,
and this is why,
and that is why,
and further back
to Empire and beyond.

Until it all makes sense.
It's good versus evil
eternal, universal
and nothing to be troubled by.

But still
the little corpses
in your path.
Alan McClure Dec 2010
Blaming Jesus
for Christianity
is like blaming Robin Hood
for the Soviet Union.
Alan McClure Feb 2013
Hakim sat
on the banks of the Euphrates,
his discarded newspaper
lifting, page by page,
on the warm wind.

He had been reading of the countless dead.

Of course, his mind played first
over those he had known.
An uncle, two brothers,
his mother
and a grandfather of ninety six.

All of them,
definitely gone.

But according to the paper,
atop the official body count
some twenty thousand souls
may or may not
have survived the conflict,
and his head swam
with this crowded limbo
and the knowledge
that no-one knew.

Enough people
to populate a small town,
possibly dead.
Not important enough
for anyone to be sure.
And Hakim, eyes
glazed in the dusty sunshine,
began to wonder
whether he was one of them,
the uncounted,
the unacknowledged,
wandering vacantly
through his outstayed welcome,

simpy waiting
for someone
to write down
his name.
Alan McClure Dec 2010
The strange thing is,
it wasn't there on the day.
I'm sure of it.
Ben MacDui, April, 1993:
cloudless, blue, glorious.
Three boys out from the city,
out from the flat grey sprawl,
shouting and laughing
into the giant empty sky.
We were there by the grace of two kind men,
who knew of greater things
than the classroom had to offer.

But now,
looking back,
the cloud has descended.
For every three of my footsteps,
one chilling, giant crunch rings out
in restless pursuit.
Shadows are cast across clouds
that simply were not there
and an unconditioned joy cowers
beneath the brocken spectre,
the Big Grey Man that followed
unseen, unguessed, and uninvited.
- From Also Available Free
Alan McClure Nov 2014
Thus proving
beyond all hope
that we remember nothing.
Alan McClure Jun 2013
If ever the internal chatter threatens to cease
and the Clear White Light begins to encroach;
if the nail-biting, jaw-grinding, hackle-rising clamour
starts to give way to the humming tranquility of Truth,
where boundaries dissolve
and language lies in redundant, grateful sleep

Some internal reflex snaps me back into distraction,
relentlessly revs the engine
and spray-paints ugly slogans across
enlightenment's helpless face.

I used to resent this, and see it as a weakness.
Now I am profoundly grateful.
It's not the unfettered truth I couldn't bear,
it's the moral obligation to share it
when the dawn rises on another normal day
and you carry the burden alone
through careless crowds, wondering
what the hell
you're supposed to do with it.
Alan McClure Jan 2012
On a lip-crack Wednesday morning
with a mind as dry as ice
my cold Mojave fingers
make it difficult to write
and the radio is laying
sentimental sediment
on a limestone lack of lustre
that's as solid as cement
and a sad Sahara sunrise
bakes a barren riverbed
where the trickled inspiration
once went gushing through my head
and I point a brittle finger
at the unrelenting sky
and I ask it why?

Then you
my memory and

My heart becomes a waterfall
cascading through my very soul
refresh the butterflies that fly
in coloured clouds below
And if you'll take me, I will grow
I will grow

I recall a conversation
from a few years down the line
one voice isn't shouting
but the other one is mine
laying words like sandbags
against the battlements
making promises which, made,
cannot be made again
I was sure of something
but my certainty was wrong
now I'm sure of something else
I can't tell for how long
I point that brittle finger
at the unrelenting sky
and ask it why?

Then you
my memory and

My heart becomes a waterfall
cascading through my very soul
refresh the butterflies that fly
in coloured clouds below
and if you'll take me I will grow
If you'll take me I will grow
If you'll take me I will grow
I will grow.
This is a few years old now but it just came back to me and I rather like it!  Nice tune, too...
Alan McClure Dec 2015
Friend, you stumble.
Can I help with your load?

Aye, pal, cheers -
budge up, everyone,
here's a new friend!

This is heavy.
What is this thing
you all carry?

We're carrying the dragon,
Carrying the dragon.

From whence came
a dragon?

Ehm, not too sure -
our fathers summoned it,
we think.

Oh, its weight!
How have you managed
for so long?

No secret there, pal -
love.  Love,
and brotherhood.
We all chip in, know?

But does the dragon
not eat you?
It writhes on my shoulders
most disagreeably.

No, no,
canny eat you
if you're carrying it.

But it must eat!
It is bloated
and gorged
beyond movement!

Aye, well,
why do think we carry it?

So what does it eat?

I..  We...
We don't really think
too much about that.
We have each other
to worry about.

And what would happen
if you just laid it down?

It would die.
We would lose
all the meaning
from our lives.

I see.
Then come, brothers -
let us carry on.
Let us carry on
and on.
Alan McClure Sep 2015
Periphery drifts
it fades and crumbles
colours seep and blend to brown
music slips
to crackled static
turn it **** it turn it down

fragrant spices
chilli, cinnamon
clart and clog the dusty tongue
lock and bolt
the shrivelled heart
on all you loved when you were young.
Alan McClure Jun 2013
Ah didny recognise him fae the eulogy.
The meenister'd nivver met the lad, Ah could see.
A hero?  Aye, mibbe.  Jist a name tae maist ay these fowk.
But ah kent im as a boay,
the daft wee scapegoat, ayewis in boather,
but nae real hairm in im.
He wis the lad wha'd get skelped, the noise
makkin the teacher turn is heid
jist in time tae spot im skelpin back.
Mairched tae the heidie again.
"Yir a bad lot, Barry.
Yir faither wis a bad lot too."

Puir Baz.
Da in the jile,
Ma aff her face on smack,
an him, daft, funny, doomed.
If onybody at hame had cared enough
tae keep the schuil photies,
they'd have shown a wee freckly laddie
wi a too-open grin,
year eftir year,
jersey gettin tattier,
teeth getting gappier,
still grinnin while the rest ay us
were far too cool tae smile for the camera.

Ah liked im.
Didny unnerstaun how the teachers
were sae ***** tae im.
There wis far badder boays in the year.
Ricky ****** Jackson - a nasty, sleekit wee body,
yankin ab'dy's strings.
But his da wis rich
an the teachers fawned ower im.
No Baz, though.
Cannon fodder, richt enough.
Tackin the flack fir the rest ay us.

Exactly the kind ay lad
the ******* Army thrives on.
Ah canny feel the patriotic pride,
canny picture the self-sacrifice,
the heroism.
Ah can juist see im,
daft an grinnin,
daein whit he wis tellt
an gettin killt.

Mind you,
he wis aye headin for the poppies, that yin,
One wey
or anither.
Alan McClure Jun 2015
Sloshing round the bay road
through the foot-deep potholes,
glorying in the rain-lashed dark
as the wind made the phone-lines sing

I saw him.  Brown, dishevelled, shivering -
a leveret, bamboozled by torchlight
diminished in his dripping fur,
wild eyes wide and startled.

Trying to leap aside, he caught the fence,
rebounded, tried again,
landing this time in a muddy sheuch,
a wired brown ball of panic.

"You'll not last long in this, wee man,"
I muttered, scooping him up,
dropping him into the deep dark pocket
of my raincoat.

Home we went, where two boys waited.
I quickened my pace, eager
to be the father bearing surprises,
to widen the cast-list of this adventure.

We dried him off, the boys enchanted.
He unfolded.  He raised his head.
He bounded round the kitchen
on impossible elastic legs.

"Let's call him Charlie!" cried Robin,
and we did.  
Charlie the Hare.
Alien, crazy, impatient.

When the rain eased
and Charlie was dry,
I put him back in my pocket
for the journey round the bay.

The last I saw of him
he was bounding out of sight
indifferent to the interlude
engaged in other things.

Those wild eyes that looked beyond
had no place in a cosy kitchen
this was no pet, no human companion
there was no understanding

But every time we see a hare,
the boys say, "I wonder if that's Charlie!"
and it glows against the backdrop
of nature's unfathomable canvas.
Alan McClure Mar 2011
I was dragged
out of trees, off ropeswings
away from friends
every single Sunday of my youth.
The big grey church
filled with frumpy hatted snobs
lit through windows covered
in incomprehensible verse
held neither wonder, peace nor fascination.
Long, agonising sits,
trying not to giggle with my brothers
and praying only for the ordeal to end
did little to fill me with reverence.

But there was a place.
There was a building in whose hallowed hush
I felt the truth of awe,
a place where universes were revealed,
imagination ignited,
questions answered clearly
and not with twenty tons of sludgy obfuscation.
The library.
I loved it even before I could read,
and afterwards, well -
it still seems incredible
that such a place could exist.

Time passes.
And the fact that the powdered old cows
can still fill the church each Sunday,
fill the collection plates,
sing their ****** songs and go,
while rows of empty shelves
gather dust in the ghost of the library
makes me
to weep.
For readers outside the UK, you might not realise that our government is closing down libraries at a terrifying rate.  I'm not blaming the church in any way, shape or form - this is just a personal expression of a feeling of injustice.- From Also Available Free
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

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
Alan McClure Dec 2011
I'll trawl the squalor, if you like,
stick blinkers on to hide the fact
that my life has so far been a charmed one.

I can conjure a face,
small, forgotten
black against a duststorm sky -
There's your poverty for you,
And yes, I was there

And sure, I smelt the days old sweat
and can remember hunger as a curiosity
The boy's name is known to me
but I won't share it

Because he was real
but I missed his reality
and I have no right to it.
***** hands notwithstanding
I was just a tourist,
a passing mote of dust
in his drought-stricken life.

I was there for me
collecting picturesque snapshots
which would inform my return
to an undeserved comfort
(but only slightly).

To say he was important,
totemic, symbolic,
is false.
I remember him, that's all -

My boys,
my clean, happy,
here-now boys
eclipse that shadow in every respect.
An honourable assertion
only in that it is true;
and a brief regret that I made no contact
flickers out before
a blaze of contentment,
a bedrock of good fortune
with little to offer
the vicarious seeker
of hard-won wisdom.
Alan McClure Sep 2012
Let's have a conversation
we've never had before
where I dazzle and surprise you
and you pin me to the floor
and the world falls out of order
in a new and perfect way
and we wake up on the faultlines
of a fascinating day
Well I know you have it in you
for myself I'm not so sure
as my hinges they are rusty
and I can't unlock the door
We have calcified in comfort
we have fossilised in fate
and I want to shake the sureness
before it gets too late
And it's not that I'm not grateful
or would rather be alone
but we owe it to each other
not to cast the world in stone
So let's have a conversation
we've never had before
let's take the wrong road home, love
and remind ourselves there's more.
Alan McClure Jun 2016
From the first blink of daylight,
the first breath of air
I will be cared for
and then I will care.
Alan McClure Jan 2012

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


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.


Hoovering out
the cat hairs

scrubbing out
the loo


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.


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


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


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


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.


the brown square
is identical
to the yellow square


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


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.


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


native style
no boundaries


The fire detectors
are fitted
at regular intervals
along the tunnel


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.


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.
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.
Alan McClure Jan 2012
Beneath our bruised and blistered feet
there comes a strange unearthly beat,
a pulse beneath our sad complaints
about how things were what they ain't
how everything has gone to hell
and how we got here none can tell
how kids ain't got no **** respect
how there's no rule they won't reject
and folks ain't safe now in their beds;
this beat continues, fractures, spreads
adds rhythms to the observation
that mankind's headed for damnation
the whole confounded human race
is ragged, cracked, a sad disgrace
(not like when we were being raised
our folks knew better, heav'n be praised
and we had boundaries, and grit,
and cross those lines and you'd get hit!)
And maybe we would stop lamenting
but this relentless pulse is venting
every bitter ball of bile
and tapping, tapping all the while
and speeding up in frenzied glee
until we all can plainly see
that, spinning in a beat-bound haze
we're longing for the GOOD OLD DAYS!
When Earth was young and pure and clean
and folks were kind, not cold and mean
and guided by self interest -
we used to see them at their best!
And click and tap and snap and clatter
comes rising from the mud and litter
And we're so caught in this discourse
we have no time to seek its source.
But down and down, beneath the soil
encased in bedrock black as oil
grinning to a tune they know,
the rhythm section's all a-glow
the skeletons of murdered daughters
of babies born and swiftly slaughtered
vagabonds and martyrs who
were butchered for a point of view
and soldiers, soldiers, cold battalions
knocked by maces off their stallions
to die dishonoured and forgotten
and lie until their bones were rotten
lost amongst the brittle league
of those who toppled to the plague
They're all awake and keeping time
to our pathetic little rhyme
and clacking carpals and phalanges
grind the message: "nothing changes!"
and not one ragged scrap of bone,
no semi-fossil all alone
can summon any memory
of when things were how they should be

So maybe I will stop the dance
and note the happy circumstance
that I am safe and well and free
I like my friends and they like me
and while injustice still exists
I'm not about to slit my wrists
No-one makes a bright tomorrow
by gazing backwards filled with sorrow
and here and now, I do aver -
I'm glad things aren't the way they were.
Alan McClure Nov 2016
Remembrance in November grows repellent
each year we rob it further of its sense
by hunting down objectors to compel them
to stand in line or cause a grave offense.
No private contemplation or reflection
when strident shrieks of nationhood prevail
Un-poppied collars count as insurrection
a slight to every brave, red-blooded male.
Division, thumping drums and waving banners
the media wades in with guns ablaze
forgetful of respect, or simple manners –
that’s not how we conduct ourselves these days
If this is what our fallen heroes wanted
I wonder why the cenotaph is haunted.

We cannot know what sent the soldiers hither
or claim the fallen courage of the fight
think boys who marched to foreign fields together
were simple symbols drawn in black and white
If we could rise above the spite and chatter
We’d find unbordered bonds and understand
that shells and bullets lacked the strength to shatter
the looking glass that straddled no man’s land
From timid chaps to lunatic berserkers
we canonise the men who heard the call
if wives had had the power to shoot deserters
there never would have been a war  at all.
Let’s render restless spirits more forgiving:
to honour best the dead, honour the living.
Alan McClure Sep 2011
I am not wracked by doubts:
I am enlivened,
and awakened by them.
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.
Alan McClure Oct 2016
for the way
you loosened my tongue
unlocked the longing
let nature, unfettered,
spill forth

For the keys
to the dance floor,
the illusion
of manhood -
the sing-songs,
and lovers

But that part played,
what's left
is loveless.
You weigh on my mind,
you get in the way,
you pin my arms
and force your way in

My boys are watching.
You'd have them think
this was normal, natural -
you're waiting
with your glistening invitation
to take them down
this perilous path

days wasted
they watch.
I wish
myself washed
of this witchcraft.

I'll raise a glass
in this hall of mirrors
then set it down
We'll always have
the past, I suppose.
Now please,
just let me be.
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 -
A long time,
the thunder of feet
fading into the distance,
leaving breeze,
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,
and wished the sky
would swallow me
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.
Next page