Ye were hyne awa fae Nuremberg o the flags,
the death-crap o the purges; Il Duce's
black-sarked legions heistin eagles…
Woolie's guns and gairden canes airmed oor wars
focht on your cassies, oor granite battle-field.
Paper planes whitent the gloamin-faa,
earth-bund swallas the scaffies sweepit up.
And quines were bobbin corks aneth the tow brigs
o their skippin ropes. Cairt horses snochert
and the shod wheels girned and dirded.
Here in this play-grun atween the tenements
– sea gulls on the lums – I breathed in Scots.
Years later I howkit up the street's kist
o memories and found amon the mools, deid words,
the affcasts o history, teuch as granite setts,
the foonds o my world.
The navel-tow o the street,
I snippit ye lang syne for war, for college,
for a dominie's day darg…Your skirling lung
is quaiter nou, cloggit up wi metal.
(I mauna cuddle in the wyme o yesterdays.)
The granite tenements stand yet
faur streenger fowk bide nou. Windas like glowerers
gaup still on oor auld hoose,
the granite centenarian o the street.
The place is like a kirk-yaird.
Fae the dowier distances o middle age
aathing's smaaer than it used to be.
My father crines at the het cheek o the ingle,
and oot the winda, a tooer block
rents the air.
Ower the chippit cassies
the tackety beets o deid louns thinly jow.
Nae McD's 'lang coffin o a street',
mair a village fit-path lined wi setts.
Streets at tap and boddom merked oor frontiers.
We spoke o girds, scuds, quines, bleedy doctors…
I'm richt glad the auld words still come back
like migrant swallas, black shears o the gloamin.
Marx we hadna heard o, only the Marx brithers.
This was oor grunwork, the hard pan o oor lives.
A sma bit street that hirpled doun a brae.
Whitever roads I took since then I
began wi workin fowk in granite tenements.
Aa the lave was superstructure.