Pushing Out the Boat Issue 12

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PUSHING OUT THE BOAT - Issue 12 FOREWORD by Frances Walker At the back of the Music Hall… last day of May and I look out of my gullsplattered top flat window. The very individual colours of the new leaves on the different trees in our backies now melded to a thick-leaved uniform green; the rowans are covered with white flower curds, while in the grass dandelions and daisies have opened their faces to the sun under lines of drying-washing. The leaves on the tree at my window are rusty-bronze, still coming out. Here high in the branches is the big-domed nest the magpies started to build at the end of January. Only a few days ago the nest was thrashing about violently in wind and rain; but it survived and the magpie pair continue to glide up and go in through their side-entrance, sometimes repairing or renovating their amazing structure, or seeing off the carrion crows with great success. The gulls just fly in a rowdy circle above their chimney-pot nests, the crows ignoring them during their reconnoitre of the backies. Birdsongs all day now, from blackbirds, sparrows, blue tits and many other small birds. At times comes the cooing of cushie-doos, sitting together on the telephone wires or hidden in the trees; and the distinctive call of oystercatchers as they rise from their nesting sites on the flat roofs of nearby buildings. The peregrine seems to be nesting elsewhere, so we don’t hear its screech as it swoops from its roost on the cathedral spire. But since the days lengthened, the vixen with the limp who wandered up and down the street after dark also seems to have moved on. So perhaps our North-East summer is here at last… But even as I write these words, mid-afternoon this last day of May, the sky darkens, rain falls and the washing is getting wet. Whatever the weather, wherever you are, make sure you are accompanied for your pleasure and entertainment by North-East Scotland’s very own Pushing Out the Boat. This enjoyable rich mix of prose, poetry and visual arts, in its elegant, very portable format, has so much more to recommend over electronic media - and no battery to run down! Take Pushing Out the Boat with you as you travel on train or ferry, absorb yourself in its pages during that long wait in the airport – then bring it home to read again and add to your collection. Or maybe gift it to a lucky new reader? Frances Walker RSA, RSW, DLitt, Hon FECA, one of Scotland’s most treasured artists, taught at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen and helped found Peacock Printmakers {now PVA]. Her works, held internationally in public and private collections, depict her life-long love of wild desolate places, her celebration of Scotland’s coastline and her continuing journeys to even more remote areas including the Arctic and Antarctic. [We are honoured that Frances Walker is the very first artist to write the Foreword for Pushing Out the Boat - Ed]

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by Frances Walker

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Coda for a Desert Constellation & Keeping the Faith Beyond Anaheim Street Antonym 3 Wet Early Onset & Islander Glass Field The Handyman The Possom Spider Croft Land The Minotaur in the room & Cave Granada The Six Wives o Harry Troup... D&G offers & Fendi Offers Alma Maria Schindler Us Connections & Wish You Were Here Shipping Forecast Necropolis 1930 Unnatural History No 1 Miss Dolly Crombie Desert Dream At Which Crossroads Did We Part Pyracantha Drying Green Pegging Out the Clothes easter morning & three poems for trish Marking A Level Scripts Swimming in the Rain Coffee with Cardea

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The Poet In Whaley See a Whale Dive Deep Down Beach - The Musical Gateway

poem by Megan Seymour Age 17 image by Eleanor L Bennett Age 17 poem by Malcolm Cowie Age 11 poem by Natalya Brentnall Age 13 image by Ally Taylor Age 13

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Cutout To the Mountains

image by David Elder story by Sarah Whiteside

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poems by Jeffrey C. Alfier image by Pauline Thomas story by Heather Reid poems by Betty Tindal image by Hilary de Vries poem by Joy Ardy story by Stephen Pacitti image by Hilary de Vries poems by Beth McDonough image by Jeff van Weereld story by Alison Green images by Sarah MacMillan-Taylor poem by Stephen Devereux poem by Ian Crockatt poems by Eleanor Fordyce image by Neil Russell story by Rob McClure Smith image by Neil Russell poem by Olivia McMahon image by Beate Allerton story by Linda Smith poem by Judith Taylor image by Jane Pettigrew poem by Janice Keir poems by Andrew McCallum poem by Louise Wilford image by Hilary Duncan story by Samuel Best

CONTENTS Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 82 Page 83 Page 84 Page 85 Page 86 Page 87 Page 88 Page 89 Page 90 Page 91 Page 92 Page 94 Page 95

Conversation image by K Castle-Anderson Night Swimming, Loch Garten & Jets poems by Heather Reid Antonym 5 image by Pauline Thomas Uncle Dod poem by Alexander Lang The Dream o the Restless Bairnickie poem by Sheena Blackhall summer storm channel country image by Tim Winters North to Algeria story by Martin Walsh grass fire channel country image by Tim Winters The Corner of Desolation and Waste & What We Don’t Know About Jonah poems by Tobi Cogswell Stranded poem by Mairi Wilson Buried image by David Elder When the Coal Was Lost story by Douglas Bruton Cabinet 1 image by Jitka Zabkova Soda Bottles poem by Ann Howells Last Night Supper - Mevaggisey poem by Vivien Jones SeaLion, SunRise image by K Castle-Anderson The Hypermuckin o Zjordan-344’s iByre story by Donnie Ross Naked Present poem by Davide Trame Firewater image by Beate Allerton Writing The Testament poem by Davide Trame The Wordsmith poem by Iain Blair-Brown Direction image by David Pettigrew Ingram Street & Moongirls poems by Haworth Hodgkinson The Golden Tree image by Beate Allerton Crows & An Accident poems by Valentina Cano Friday Night poem by Rapunzel Wizard Lost afternoon story by William Ferguson, Remembering poem by David Elder Shaven from Glithno Road image by Iain Burt Gold story by Ariadne Cass-Maran Randomness image by Anna Ondicova Contributor Information Magazine Information, including our Production Team POTB outlets, including NEOS


Made for Charity

image by Eleanor Leonne Bennett Age 17

Our covers are chosen anonymously and this year, for the first time, the image selected is by one of our younger contributors. The photographer is the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of The Year 2013 and has also won first places with National Geographic, the World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography and The National Trust to name but a few. Eleanor’s photography has been published in the Telegraph, the Guardian, the British Journal of Psychiatry, Life Force Magazine, British Vogue and as the cover of books and magazines extensively throughout the world. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in New York, Paris, London, Rome, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Washington, Canada, Spain, Japan and Australia amongst many other locations.

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Coda for a Desert Constellation I On the scree of Candelerio Peak, he spreads a sky chart at his late-pitched camp, and merges, for the sake of stars, into the towering quiet. Ravens climb through a blade of final light. As if halted by moonrise, numberless rail cars stitch a silenced vector through the desertscape. Twilight brushes far-off cordillera in a fading caress of incandescence. The Braille of untaken switchbacks inhale the starlight without him.

II Farther north, at a Tonopah hotel window, a young boy swishes his hand through a galaxy of dust motes airborne in a beam of truckstop light. Down the hall, a man touches a woman’s shoulder for the last time. She pours a bourbon, spares the ice. Her dry rage is a ship with a fire below decks. Peering out the window, the boy watches the paper plate held by a homeless woman vibrate in her grip, as if wind were only interested in her hands tonight. Jeffrey C. Alfier


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Keeping the Faith Beyond Anaheim Street I This close to shipping lanes, the marine layer persists into midday. It diffuses whatever light filters through streets and over men bent to welding and alignment jobs, or auto wreck shops in the screech of what hungers for oil, a world shared with the bright pink and red blossoms that paint the window front of Rosita’s Flowers, a block from a drunk who howls the garbled cipher of his mind under the awning of Angel’s Clutch & Brake.

II A longshoreman wonders where a coworker could have gone. Whether he cut toward the ‘A’ Street pier to find his foreman, or diverted through a park no more than a weedy bed for drunks now, to a woman friend who works in a lavanderia, or eastward to Anaheim Street, past the wary windows of Bonnie Lee Hotel, or circled back to the Dispatch Hall to stand with the crush of chain-smokers still awaiting the day’s assignment, the strip joints beyond Alameda salient in their reckonings.

III A laid-off welder, drunk on longshot pipedreams of a lottery score, will mumble all night to absinthe and pork rinds. His mother in her dirty sweaters sells rose bouquets from a Shell station lot. Held high in her fists, she waves them to catch the eyes of drivers, clustered red semaphores few will read in the blistering air, where the drunk’s voice drifts like alibis entangled in the breaking light. Jeffrey C. Alfier

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antonym 3

Pauline Thomas


digital image

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Wet (extract from a novel)


n the water, Marsha looked like a giraffe: not because her neck was long and slender, although it was; nor because her legs seemed to stretch to impossible lengths, although they did; but because the sun, spilling through the glass roof of the swimming pool, had painted her young and supple body with wobbling oblongs of light.

Mr Ralph was pacing beside her, his white gym shoes squealing occasionally on the damp surface, a red whistle swinging from his neck. He was chanting rhythmically, “Stroke, stroke, stroke,” as Marsha’s arms cartwheeled through the air, but whether this was encouragement or warning of what such a sight might induce in a red blooded male, Adam wasn’t sure. Adam himself was hunched at the far end of the pool, a blue and orange towel draped around his shoulders, his toes curled inwards like an owl on a perch. “Good,” said Mr Ralph as Marsha pulled herself from the water. “Good time, Marsha. Well done.” Marsha smiled and hobbled to the far end of the pool, her long hair flowing in a single dark wave across her back. As she drew near, Adam looked away, avoiding her approach. At some point over the past few months, Marsha’s body had developed targets: bull’s-eyes placed at all strategic points - one on each breast, one squeezed between the narrow borders of her waist, another at the place where her long legs met - and Adam’s eyes were arrows, his aim as true as any archer’s. “Come on then, Adam, let’s see what you’ve got,” said Ralph, giving one sharp blast on the whistle. “Two lengths, back crawl, and put some effort in. Marsha’s going to take some beating.” Oh yes, thought Adam as the water took his body, Marsha took some beating alright; nobody he knew came close to beating Marsha. He focused on his breathing. Recently his body had gone weird; unholy alliances had been forged, friendships between organs of which his mum would not approve – eyes and brain and cock. It was a kind of possession, as though his body had been taken over by some dark and horny djinn. Now parts of him had struck out on their own, thudding and quickening, staring and widening, swelling and tightening without any recourse to Adam’s own opinions; it was an embarrassing inconvenience. He tucked himself beneath the water and powered off to start the second length; in the distance he could hear the shrieks and yelps of children in the leisure pool, Ralph’s voice coming through as interference, “Good-lad-keep-it-up.” He hit the end at speed, rapping his knuckles on the smooth lip of the side. His lungs had shrunk to walnuts and he wheezed in panicked gasps to re-inflate them. “Not bad at all,” Ralph was saying, “looks as if you’ve cracked your own best time. Well done.” Unable to respond with words, Adam raised his hands in a two-thumb salute.

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Wet “Ok, guys,” said Ralph, addressing the remaining swimmers, ‘I’ll see you next week. And keep up the practice, we’re up against Fife in a fortnight.’ Adam pulled himself from the water, grabbed his towel and made his way to the showers. Timing was everything: if he was quick enough he would be there when Marsha washed her hair and could watch, hidden by the streaming water, as the soft white suds slipped down her body. He imagined how they would look, routeing themselves along the leg holes of her costume before dripping, with a satisfying ‘thuck’, onto the tiled floor. If he was really lucky he would catch the apple scent of her shampoo. “Adam.” Ralph was jogging purposefully toward him. “Mr Ralph?” “That was some time you managed there! Keep that up and you’ll be our star performer.” Ralph raised his arm as if to drape it around Adam’s shoulders but then seemed to reconsider and let it hang briefly in the air like an injured wing. “Will you make it to the trials against Kinross?” “I hope so,” said Adam, desperate now to get to the showers. “Everything OK at home?” Adam wondered when his home life had become of interest to the instructor; or what it was that Ralph knew about his home situation that he, himself, did not. “Yep, as far as I know.” “Good… well, if you have any problems don’t be afraid to let me know.” Adam looked blankly at the instructor. “About the swimming, I mean. Getting here… that kind of thing.” “Aye, right.” Adam ducked quickly into the changing area, before Ralph could respond, fumbling to unclip the locker key from his trunks. He’d missed his chance: Marsha was out of the showers already and wringing her long black hair into a drainage channel beside the cubicles. Adam’s body filled with tension, his legs buzzed, his chest ached, he felt the need to punch the wall or, better still, that bastard Ralph who’d screwed the whole thing up. Now what he was faced with, when he stood beneath the water, was Mitchell Henney from S5 - a boy whose body appeared to have been fashioned by a balloon artist at a children’s party; a boy who, seemingly oblivious to Adam’s presence, proceeded to press one nostril with his thumb and shoot a bolt of snot from the other, watching proudly as it swirled around the water at their feet.


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Wet “You want to be careful,” said Mitchell, nodding in the direction of the pool where Mr Ralph was reeling in the lane dividers. “Careful?” ‘You know - Ralph!’ Adam didn’t know but thought that he could guess. His body rinsed a fiery red. Ralph had never struck him in ‘that way’, and he’d heard no whispered rumours in school; and yet could it explain the man’s sudden interest in his home life and the offer of being available to talk? And what was that thing with the arm? Adam felt a special kind of sick. “Oh, right,” he said to Mitchell who was towelling his hair, “no worries there.” And he barked a manly laugh to underline an unwavering conviction in his own heterosexuality. “If you’re sure,” said Mitchell noncommittally, shimmying the towel vigorously across his shoulders. Adam could see a number of stiff dark hairs, sprouting there, putting him in mind of a housefly or a puppet whose strings had been cut, and he made a mental note to check his own back in the bathroom mirror that evening. Outside the leisure centre the rain was sweeping from the sky in waves, channelling along the walkways and pooling on the paving stones below. Adam could feel its weight upon his eyelashes, its cold insistency drubbing against his skin. His shirt clung to his back in damp stretches and his trousers chafed. He wanted to go home, to crawl inside his room and shut the door, to curl up, to turn off, to shut down. “Adam.” The voice came from a black Ford Estate. Mr Ralph was in the car, crouching behind the shield of the open door, beckoning to him with one arm. “Can I give you a lift somewhere? You’re going to be soaked.” Adam shook his head. “It’s ok,” he said. ‘I’m going to my Gran’s. The bus will be here any minute.” “Ok, if you’re sure. See you next week then, if not at school.’ “Aye.” Adam raised his hand in farewell, dropping it suddenly and letting his hand slap wetly against his thigh. As the car pulled away, Marsha McGregor turned in the passenger seat and waved in reply.

Heather Reid

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Early Onset


Joan in her best hat, a suit from Harrods: dressed to kill on the way to Sue’s wedding. Her handbags clutched defiantly (I don’t know which I might need).

Bird sown, atop a dyke the rodden tree has hid a puir stert in life.

Smiling as they watch the young couple exchange rings, kisses, promises of hours, days, years together. Wishing them well Joan nods, agrees, like a puppet, following Ken’s lead, clinging on, attending their daughter’s wedding. Joan in her best hat, the suit from Harrods: carrying two empty handbags.

Stertin the struggle tae survive ruits rax fir a fit-haud, a lover’s embrace twinin roon the sun-warmed stane, then thickenin, grabbin, strengthenin, makin fast. Noo a scrawny shoot pints skywards becomes a trunk, syne buds an leaves green. An as the warld spins, through blossom, berry, fall the wee tree hings in there. But some day it’ll hae tae accept the inevitable. Some day its seed will be luikin fir a new hame. Betty Tindal

Glass Field

Hilary De Vries


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The Handyman They filmed your hands in the war, building the wooden frame of a Mosquito. Just your hands. As though they stood for the whole man. In the fifties, we caught them in TV interludes, instead of the potter’s wheel. Yours were as deft, smoothing the beech to the silky slip of wet clay. Your hands could sweep the curve of a backrail and know if the chair would sit straight, could set the cutter to a thou. When the saw leaped, snatched off your finger, the stump was your badge of courage, your war-wound, the true mark of a father that mushroom pouch by your thumb. And those long fingers, more scar than flesh, with their bitten stubs of nails, skin raspy as sandpaper, splintered, swung me howdah-high to your shoulders, fastened me there in the High Street crush, or in the football crowd, swinging the rattle you’d made from odd bits that fell into your pockets when no-one was looking. Then came times when your grip slipped. And then more often. Cups, glasses dropped straight through your grasp, leaving their shape like a startled ghost in your fingers. And that was just you too. Your special sleight of hand. Till we learned there were men who could measure grip and yours was wrong. But you had a thing or two up your sleeve to teach them yet. Early morning. The nurse who got you up, sat you in your chair for breakfast, gave you a glass of water. Some strange noise fetched her back. And you had left your body sitting there, your hands still holding the glass, and you hadn’t spilled a drop. Joy Ardy Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Possum Spider


y first encounter with Oscar Quillerby was on Taipei’s Chung Shan North Road. It left me shaken and dazed, and calculating whether I had enough money to take the next plane back to Britain.

Other missionaries who have been ‘Quillerby-ed’, so to speak, all testify to the same reaction - those of them, that is, who are still capable of testifying coherently to anything at all. But the rather small number who did not in fact catch the next plane home have grown to love the man, in an odd sort of way, and indeed now regard their initial meeting with him as a trial of faith cunningly devised by the Almighty. On the flyleaf of many a missionary’s Bible may be found, written in a shaky hand, some such inscription as ‘Met Quillerby’; or, more frequently, ‘Accosted by Quillerby’, or even quite simply ‘Quillerby’, followed by the date and a string of comforting Scripture texts. In some cases the ink will appear to have been blotted by tears. Esther Sapone’s Chinese New Testament bore the almost illegible words: ‘Easter Sunday 1977. Oscar Quillerby. Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side’. And in Larry Pretzel’s Bible, the inscription ‘Oscar Quillerby! Dear God!’ was written in what he self-consciously affirmed was red ink. I can only say it was ink of a kind I have never seen. Recently arrived in Taiwan, not yet accustomed to the heat and the humidity, and unutterably depressed by my morning reading in Ryle`s Holiness, I was trudging wearily along, when all of a sudden I was assailed by a piercing cry of, “Kill ‘im! Kill ‘im!” which almost brought my heart to a halt. I swung round to see a man leaping towards me like an Olympic long jumper, arms windmilling, legs flailing, a maniacal gleam in his eyes. He landed with a tremendous thud inches away from me. “Got ‘im!” he cried, lifting his right foot to reveal an enormous cockroach now catastrophically reduced to two dimensions. “Heh, heh, heh! One down and 750 thousand billion to go! Heh, heh! How do you do, Widsyth? Quillerby’s the name. Spelt Q-U-I-L-L-E-R-B-Y but pronounced ‘Killer-bee’ like the vicious little Brazilian beastie. I saw the photograph in your College Bulletin; couldn’t mistake a face like that in the bowels of a Roman galley, I said to myself. Heh heh! Welcome to Taiwan, my boy. The first ten years are the worst, but you’ll do fine if you stick at it. Except that you won’t survive unless you learn to kill cockroaches. Why on earth didn’t you give him the flat of your sole, Widsyth?” This verbal avalanche completely floored me. “I…I… I’m afraid I didn’t see him,” I mumbled. “Besides he wasn’t doing any harm there on the pavement. I mean, it’s not as if he was in my soup-plate.” “Not in your soup-plate, Widsyth? Not in your soup-plate! What kind of talk is this? Did we shrink from taking on Hitler because he wasn’t in our soup-plate, Widsyth? Did we turn our backs on smallpox because it wasn’t in our soup-plate? Did we run from…”


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The Possum Spider “I only meant… “ “Have the kindness not to interrupt, if you please, Widsyth! Doing no harm was he, eh? Why, there aren’t words enough in Roget’s Thesaurus to describe the villainy of this scuttling horror! Did you know he’s a carrier of 14 diseases fatal to man and of three more that are partly fatal?” “Partly fatal, Mr Quillerby?” “And of 29 more that will keep you crouched over a squat-pot for days on end!” “But…” “And in addition to that, at least 76 more that will have you bent over a bucket 18 hours a day!” “But surely…” “‘Surely’ is the operative word, Widsyth. It is an ‘assured result’ of modern scientific research. Dr C Winley-Bruntington has shown it to be so.” “And who is Dr C Winley-Bruntington, Mr Quillerby?” “Why, only my cousin’s brother-in-law’s nephew, and one of the most brilliant entomologists in Asia, Widsyth. That’s who! He says we’ve got to fight ‘em, and by Jove, he`s right! Fight ‘em in the restaurants, fight ‘em behind the curtains, fight ‘em on the carpets, fight ‘em under our beds, fight ‘em in the lavatories, fight ‘em inside the washing machines and beneath the refrigerators, fight ‘em on the beaches, fight ‘em on the landing grounds, fight ‘em in the fields and in the streets…” By this time a group of Japanese tourists had gathered round, smiling and taking photographs. Their guide was giving a running interpretation and soon they all broke out in polite applause. Quillerby, quite startled, flushed, smiled at the group, bowed low, and hurried me into a nearby coffee shop. “Look, Widsyth,” he said earnestly, “you’re young, fresh, dedicated, full of enthusiasm and ideals, but that in itself is no great problem. Language School will soon knock all that out of you. The thing is to be aware of the dangers”. “Dangers?” I echoed. He lowered his voice. “Drink, cigarettes, betel-nut, women, mah-jong, all-night prayer meetings; ‘Reverence for Life’.” “’Reverence for Life?’”

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The Possum Spider “The deadliest of them all, Widsyth,” he said, grinding his teeth and bringing a fist crashing down on the table. “You’ve got to learn to kill, Widsyth! Mosquitoes, flies, spiders, beetles, gnats, ants, cockroaches, centipedes. Show no mercy - crush the life out of ‘em!” “But,” I protested “they’re living things. Life is a gift from God! Life is sacred! Life is beautiful.” Quillerby snorted. “Oh, set it to music, Widsyth! Life’s beauty is only skin deep, and the skin is where they get you, young man. I warn you, the most beautiful bugs have the deadliest bite. Crush the life out of ‘em! And never never look them in the eye, or you’ll falter and fail. And then you’re finished! An insect facing a fly swat can assume a very pathetic look, I tell you, Widsyth. Especially if she’s a female. She’ll start you thinking about her eggs and babies and what-not, and before you know it she’s melted your heart and you’ve let her go and she’s bitten you in twenty different places. So just avert your gaze, and crush ‘em! It’s them or us, Widsyth, them or us!” It suddenly entered my head that I had heard people refer to this man as ‘Killer’. Till now I had believed it to be an affectionate abbreviation. “But surely…” “Have you met Gottlob Freeke yet?” he cut in. “No, but I think I’ve heard the name. A Lutheran surgeon?” “The same. Performs miracles in the operating theatre, that man, and him with a transplanted heart, a glass eye and a wooden leg.” “Never!” I exclaimed. “Tragic, but true, my lad. ‘Gottlob the Lionheart’ I call him. I’m proud to count that man my friend, indeed I am. He has overcome innumerable and immeasurable obstacles in order to pursue his calling.” “A transplanted heart, and a glass eye and a wooden leg,” I murmured, profoundly impressed. He saw that I was moved, and for a moment or two we remained silent. “The eye and the leg,” I went on, in a tone of deepest respect, “an accident... or from birth, Mr Quillerby?” He peered at me over his spectacles. “Widsyth,” he said at length, “that a baby was once born of a virgin is orthodox Christian doctrine. I admit I’ve had my doubts, but after years of intellectual struggle I’ve almost won through to a kind of uneasy acceptance of it. But I’m unaware that any baby ever came into this world ready-equipped with a glass eye and a wooden leg; and if I’m required to believe it, I tell you flatly, I won’t!” He banged his fist on the table and glared at me.


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The Possum Spider “No - of course – yes – but… I meant…” “Gottlob Freeke,” he interposed patiently, “lost his eye in circumstances which he once related to me, but which, not knowing you well enough, I am not at liberty to divulge. Only ten people ever knew the truth about that business, Widsyth.” “Really?” I raised an eyebrow. “And eight of them,” he added darkly, “died unnatural deaths.” I gulped. “And the leg?” “That was Albert Schweitzer’s doing.” “Albert Schweitzer operated on Gottlob Freeke?” I gasped. “No. Yet in a manner of speaking, yes. Operated on his thinking. Freeke had read Schweitzer’s philosophy, you see.” “Ah, so that’s where ’Reverence for Life’ comes in?” “Just so, Widsyth. It almost proved lethal. And you must avoid it like the plague.” “But how on earth could ‘Reverence for Life’ prove lethal, Mr Quillerby? That’s a bit Irish, isn’t it?” “Not so, Widsyth, and please refrain from making racist innuendos. We are all God’s children. Don’t you forget it, my lad. Anyway, I said ‘almost lethal’. Gottlob Freeke would be a true biped today, had it not been for his blind adherence to Schweitzer’s pernicious doctrine of ‘Reverence for Life’ - and had he not ignored my solemn warnings about the Possum Spider.” “Possum Spider?” “Yes, Widsyth. Sometimes called the ‘Jaws’ of the insect world. It’s got a body the size of a golf-ball, and legs the size of cigars, but its mouth seems to be made of elastic. It’s been known to attempt to swallow an Alsatian.” I gave vent to a little shriek of astonishment. “Not Schweitzer, surely to goodness?” “The dog, Widsyth, the dog. A German Shepherd.” He sat back and scrutinised me warily through half-closed eyes. “And these spiders are found here, on Taiwan?” I whispered.

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The Possum Spider Quillerby nodded gravely. “From Keelung to Kenting. They’re everywhere, but they proliferate especially in dark dank, depressing places like churches and boardrooms and theological seminaries.” “Poisonous?” I enquired hesitantly, knowing full well what the answer would be. “As lethal as Lucrezia Borgia’s puddings, my boy. That’s why you’ve got to kill ‘em, you see. They bite viciously deep, inject their poison, hang on until their victim’s paralysed and then eat him alive. They’re horrible, Widsyth, horrible.” “But Gottlob Freeke?” “Trod on one accidentally in his kitchen.” “And?” “And broke one of its legs.” “So?” “Well that wouldn’t have bothered me, of course. I’d have quite cheerfully broken each of its legs in ten places – and its neck too. But it worried Gottlob. He felt he owed it to the spider to try to do something for it with his God-given medical skill and all that. He had an idea that he could use a pencil as a splint, and maybe the leg would heal in time. The spider looked very feeble and faint, and Gottlob was just easing it onto a newspaper with his foot when the little brute grabbed his shoe in its jaws and bit right through to the bone.” Quillerby stirred his coffee and looked very serious. Uneasy doubts began to stir within me. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye. “Widsyth, you will not be aware of this, but it has been calculated that the jaws of a Possum Spider can exert a pressure of 30 tons per square foot.” He paused dramatically. “Gottlob Freeke had a square foot?” Quillerby’s look would have stripped varnish off a door. “Possum Spiders have limitless resources of strength and cunning, Widsyth,” he boomed. “And it is reckoned that they will do anything for a laugh and an easy life. Science has not come near to catching up with them yet. Sometimes one will be seen sitting in the sun, lazily spinning its web of deceit. But if it has half a suspicion that you are an arachnologist it will pull in two of its legs and pretend to be an insect. Dreadful deceivers they are. They often pretend to be dead when they’re alive, hence the name Possum Spider.” “Oh, yes,” I said, “I recall that Darwin mentions a spider that feigns death. And a kind of lizard, too.”


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The Possum Spider Quillerby’s eyes suddenly grew wondrously large. He looked cautiously round the coffee shop and lowered his voice. “You… you’ve read Darwin?” “Yes, in The Voyage of the Beagle he mentions…” “You mean, you have actually held in your own hand a book by Darwin?” “Yes, of course.” What I took for an expression of mock horror crossed his face (at least I hoped it was so). “Then, my lad, if you are wise, you will not broadcast that fact. Not unless you want to get yourself severely prayed about!” “But…” “On some other occasion I shall require to have speech with you on the matter; but for now, to my tale. As I was saying, these spiders often pretend to be dead when they’re alive. Some even pretend to be alive when they’re dead – something to do with their central nervous system, apparently. Quite astonishing. They just never know when to quit. No, they are assuredly minions of Satan, my boy. It’s actually on record that a student doing his doctoral dissertation on them failed to get his degree because of their abominable treachery. He was studying a whole colony of them in the library of Chang Hua Theological College, and as soon as they twigged what he was up to, every single one of them pulled in three of its legs. He worked away for two solid years on the assumption that he had discovered a new species of five-legged spider…” Quillerby paused, sipped his coffee, then thrust his jaw forward, his mouth drawn down at the corners in a contemptuous sneer, “…until the examining professors came along to check on the poor chap’s findings.” “And then what?” “And then, Widsyth... and then those little Judases let out their legs again. That’s what! Oh, it was a mean rotten, low-down, dastardly trick to play - and them ensconced in the Christian Ethics section of the library to boot. It served them right when the student sprayed them all with DDT. God is not mocked, Widsyth.” “But Freeke?” I pursued. “Gottlob was in very real trouble, I can tell you,” continued Quillerby fervently. “The spider’s poison began to move up his leg, and he felt it going numb. Now I’d have murdered the wretched spider and hot-footed (or more accurately, under the circumstances, cold-footed) it to the nearest hospital. But not Gottlob. He had drunk too deeply of Schweitzer’s polluted fount. Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Possum Spider “And would that spider let go? No, sir! He held on. He was as persistent as a brush salesman with a foot in the door. Only in this case the foot was in the mouth, and it was Gottlob’s foot. The spider seemed to be pressing for a settlement of the issue along Biblical lines – ‘an eye for an eye, a foot for a foot’ sort of thing. Well, Gottlob would have been the first to admit the reasonableness of that, but he couldn’t spare the eye, and he was more than a mite reluctant to part with the foot. And all the time he felt this numbness moving up his leg, and he knew it was only a matter of minutes before his whole body would become as stiff as a martyr’s upper lip. He had no choice.” “So what did he do?” I asked breathlessly. “Widsyth, I tell you that man is no ordinary man. What did he do? He took a meat cleaver and sliced his leg off at one blow. Clean as a whistle. Only a highly experienced surgeon could have done it.” “Amazing!” I gasped. “As I hope for heaven, Widsyth. While Gottlob wrapped a polythene bag round the stump, the spider went off to eat the leg in a corner. Both calm as you like.” “Incredible!” I cried. “And do you know the worst of it, Widsyth?” he went on. “That brute actually waved its broken leg at Gottlob.” “Waved? A broken...?” “Precisely, Widsyth, precisely. The leg wasn’t broken at all. The spider was shamming from start to finish. Oh, they’re mean, low, cunning devils, the lot of them. Kill ’em, Widsyth. Kill ’em. Every chance you get. Kill `em! Kill `em!” “It’s tragic,” I said soberly, and with only the tiniest trace of scepticism in my voice. “Especially as the whole thing was quite unnecessary in the first place. I mean, after all, a spider... One leg more or less wouldn’t make any difference, would it?” Quillerby’s coffee cup hit the saucer with a resounding crack. “One leg more or less... wouldn’t…” he spluttered. “One leg more or less? Tell that to Gottlob Freeke, Widsyth. Tell that to Gottlob Freeke!” And he stalked out, leaving me to pay the bill. Stephen Pacitti


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Croft Land

Hilary de Vries

Watercrayon & pastel

Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Minotaur in the room

For Jim Buchan

A two-toned, flat maze has been created in a roof garden at New Lanark. It represents the quest for enlightenment, in accordance with Robert Owen’s ideals.

Without walls; today, Theseus and Ariadne have no need to wind around the sense of this, to tiptoe untried paths, wonder rewind, discuss; together trace


intricacies of thought‌ meander, puzzle, and wander the wrong

mazyCreteMinosnotMinoansunshaded alleyskilncrackle

way sometimes, reeling in unexpected views, before turning at last to the living core of the labyrinth.

Instead, I suppose, we could simply, half-

jumpingbullsonMinoanvasesbutnotMinoan Daedalus

amazing amasianOldEnglishofunknownorigin

minded, stride manfully to the centre, bullishly confident as that slip of technology passed across the table, cutting through thoughts and conversations with the easy answer, which informs, but has somehow lost the knowledge.

Beth McDonough


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Cave We rim a tepid slug of sea, cross rocks, turn at the grown-over well, meander a trace

inland, scratched by scrub, and though we know the cave is near, unseen, we hear it first.

A low pipe, aired through


the crack in the gorge echoes in vastness. We learn this light,

find graffiti, pigeon turds, ammonia stink, a dirty empty. With hope that the hang of bats may fly, we leave.

Beth McDonough

Corroded steel, patinated copper, glass Jeff van Weereld

Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Six Wives o Harry Troup, Nether Bogheid o Hameton


t wis me fa pinted oot ti Harry Troup that e’d deen wrang by mairryin es brither’s wife. Weel, e wis fair stammygastert ti be telt it said sic a thing in i Gweed Book. Syne, e fummelt aboot fir es glesses an heistet i Bible richt up til es een ti read ‘Leviticus 20:21’ fir imsel. Bit ach, Ah didna blame Harry, fir fit else wis i man ti dee wi a greetin quine an es brither deid?! Bit aat wis Harry fir ye - aye sikken ti dee richt fir abody! “Harry!” Ah gaed on. “Catherine o Ardlethen’s a fine quine and aa that, bit ye canna hae the wrath o God hangin ower yer heid!” Weel, e hid ti agree fin it wis pit like that, an gaed ma es wird that e’d ging doon and spik wi the Reverend Wrichtsin eence eeran. An if i truth be telt, Ah winna tell a lee, there wis hope in ma hairt fir Harry Troup an me... Bit fit Ah didna ken wis that e hid es ee on aat brazen little hizzie, Annie Buchan! Or raither, Annette Beauchant, as she likit ti caa herself - wi er funcy airs an graces, an comin awa wi fibs aboot er faither’s faither bein Frinch. Aul Jimmy Buchan wis a Brocher: the man wis nivver oota Fraserburgh, nivver min Frunce! Bit och, Harry couldna see past i quine, bit then Harry saa the gweed in abody. Harry wis aat kin o man! An Catherine o Ardlethen’s side o the bed wis hardly caul fan Annie Buchan cowpit hersel in ower... Bit pride comes afore a fa, an it wisna lang afore Annie Buchan, wi aa er airs an graces, wis oot o faavour. Ooh La La! Ah dinna ken fa started i rummerr that er relashins wi er brither wis - weel, let’s jist say - mair than ‘britherly’... bit it spread like wildfire - and we ken Harry’s views on incest!! Weel, fan i quine got win o this, she wis fair distracht. An it gar ma hairtie greet ti see the lassie in sic a state, so Ah speirt at er ae day, “Annie ma dearie, fit aboot you an me haen a stroll ootbye...?” Ah thocht it wid dee the puir quine gweed - weel, I didna ken she wis gaun ti ging aff er heid an hurl hersel aff i tap o the silage tooer on i Hill o Fiddes! Och, bit it wis a affa sicht. An if i truth be telt, Ah winna tell a lee, there wis hope in ma hairt fir Harry Troup an me... Bit fit Ah didna ken wis that Harry hid es ee on aat vratch o a kitchie deem, Jean Simmers! There wis naething o the quine. Ae blaw o the win an she’d a bin awa! Bit o, foo Harry doted on er. Bit then e wis a generous man. An afore we kent it she wis haein a bairn. Bit och it wis an affa tak on fir a spec o a quine like Jean Simmers, an she wis gie trachelt. “Jeannie,” Ah says til er ae day, “bonnie Jeannie, hae ane o Aggie’s toddies, it’ll dee ye gweed.” An as Ah clappet i gless til er moo, she scried, “Oh Aggie!” She wis aat gratefu! Weel, Ah didna ken they were gaun tae be er last wirds. Syne she grewe nae weel. Syne she grewe waur, and syne it wis ower late fir i puir quine. Syne Ah wrappet i wee babby inna ma bosie and fuspered in es lug that Ah’d be a gweed step-mammy. An if i truth be telt, Ah winna tell a lee, there wis hope in ma hairt fir Harry Troup an me...


Pushing Out the Boat 12

The Six Wives o Harry Troup, Nether Bogheid o Hameton Bit afore lang, there cam wird o a young quine fae Clatt. An fan Harry heard that she’d bin crownt Queen o Clatt Show, he wis fair taen in, an agreed ti get mairret afore e’d ee’n clappet een on i quine. Fir Harry wis like aat, aye trustin... aye the gintleman. Weel, es face wis a picter fan Annie o Clatt humphet herself doon i aisle, fir she wis mair than twice i size o Jean Simmers! An if i truth be telt, Ah winna tell a lee, there wis hope in ma hairt fir Harry Troup an me... Bit fit Ah didna ken wis that e hid es ee on bonnie wee Kitty Howie, Annie Buchan’s cousin! Weel, ye’d a thocht she’d a kent fine fit she wis gettin intil. Bit she hid nae business begowkin a gintleman like Harry Troup like aat fin aa the file she wis cairryin on ahin es back!! “Kitty?” Ah speirt at er ae day. “Fit aboot you and me haein a stroll up i Hill o Fiddes?” Ah didna like ti vex i quine by lettin on that this wis i verra spot far er cousin, Annie Buchan, drew er hinmaist braith... Sae Ah jist cuppet ma haun ti ma lug an telt er Ah funcied Ah could hear er bonnie cousin Annie cryin doon til er fae the tap o the silage tooer. “Fit’s she sayin?” speirt i quine. Ah cuppet ma haun again. “Oh, Kitty,” Ah said, “she says déjà vu. It’s Frinch. It means ‘a dare ye!’” Weel, Kitty fair dotet on er big cousin Annie, an up she gaed. Syne Ah jist kept tee ahin ti mak sure she didna faa... An if i truth be telt, Ah winna tell a lee, there wis hope in ma hairt fir Harry Troup an me... Bit fit Ah didna ken wis that Harry’d hid es heid turnt by a young an bonnie teacher quine caa’d Kate Paterson! Kate wis a clivver quine - ower clivver fir oor Harry, and och it broke ma hairt ti see a man like Harry Troup worn doon by a weeman. Syne Ah says til er ae day, “Kate, hae ane o Aggie’s toddies, it’ll dee ye gweed.” Weel, fan she said she’d die fir a toddy, Ah didna need twa tellins. An it wis wi trimmlin hairt an shakkin hauns that Ah cairret ben i sacred dracht... Bit afore Ah kent it, Kate hid clappet i gless ti Harry’s moo, an gar im drink up. “Bi…bit Kate...” Ah habbered. She seelenst ma wi a warnin’ haun. Syne, Harry drank fae the gless, an afore ma verra een, e drappet doon stein deid! A gweed man like aat, cruelly cut doon in es prime! “Aggie,” said Kate, gaitherin ersel the gither a bittie tee seen fir my likin, “now that I am Mistress of Nether Boghead of Hamton...” syne she lookit hard intae ma een, garrin ma trimmle, “we don’t want the wrath of the law hanging over your head, do we Aggie??!” Ah shooglet ma heid, fir Ah didna ken fit else ti dee, an she gaed on, ‘So... why don’t you run along and make the tea?” An as Ah scurried awa til i scullery, she scried sleekitly, “Oh, and Aggie... I think you and I are going to get along just fine - don’t you?!!” Bit if i truth be telt, Ah winna tell a lee, there wis nae mair hope fir Harry Troup an me...!!

Alison Green

Pushing Out the Boat 12


D&G Offers

silk dye and gesso on canvas

Fendi Offers

gesso on canvas lemon gold, palladium leaf, watercolour, acrylic, graphite Sarah MacMillan-Taylor


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Alma Maria Schindler Mahler had been tedious, keeping her away from the piano, nursemaid to his children and to his muse. She stayed away from his funeral. Doctor’s orders. Natürlich. Oskar’s lust would assuage her grief. He painted her until his wrist ached. She tired of him soon enough, could not sustain their amour fou. And she was turning other heads. She aborted their child, not intending this to become domestic. He went wild. Persuading him to join up did the trick. He survived, just, but she could not love a man for bayonet wounds, bullets in the head. He got a doll made of her. Life-size. Took it to parties, the Staatsoper. Did he think she’d be jealous, regret she’d gone off with Gropius? He would have his revenge out on the doll, sat her on the sofa, got his friends round to drink, smoke opium, do it three to a bed. They watched him take her stuffing out, cut off her head. Stephen Devereux

Us The ways I chose were cobbled. Your stilettos failed to impress in that unbalancing world. I visited you in hospital, caressed your fractured kneecap with my lips – you howled Out! Out!, swore, peppered me with grapes and copper coins. Darling, I’ve made you a token of equilibrium – this sonnet of equal halves – I’ve posted it on Facebook, had it read on radio Hospitalato at semolina time – still you deny us. I know it should have begun ‘Shall I, shall I compare thee’ - to Icarus? to Humpty Dumpty? - each equally determined to fly before they could fall – but I’ve lost my vertigo. Please call. Ian Crockatt

Pushing Out the Boat 12



Deemed harmless, she has been taken to a boarding house by the sea. Fate has brought her to my salty air.

Asylum visits as a child still obsess. Once a month, we sat in the ward’s kitchen, drank uneasy tea; in closed quietness, she shuffled between the clatter of cups and stared at reflections of herself. She has been arranged on a settee: a plumped up cushion in its place. I confront the silence with rehearsed inconsequential things, but she sits, arms folded, searching a windowed sky. The child on my knee is mesmerised. He stretches out his arms and she turns , takes him to her. It is enough.

Wish You Were Here Langtimenaesee Beenawahivah Faarwisye? Fuerteventura Faar? Fuerteventura Faarsaat? Naeaclue Gidonaplane Gotaffeplane Bustaethehotel Bliddyhetfarivveritis Atthepoolivrydaylike? Anroonthepubsatnicht? Furahaletwawiks Kenessaatsoondslikefaarahwislastear Puredeidbrillianteh Fuerteventura. Eleanor Fordyce


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Shipping Forecast

Neil Russell

Ink jet print

Pushing Out the Boat 12


Necropolis 1930


eistways, the two policemen walk south into George Square to there scatter a flock of dirty pigeons from the manicured parterres. Hepburn thinks he should have better met Gilmartin at this other Necropolis. He regards Walter Scott skied on his great Doric column, plaid over the wrong shoulder, hand clutched at his stomach as if taken with a sudden indigestion, or the pain of having yon lightning conductor stuck like a dart in the back of his neck. Burns has the littler statue but looks at the rest without malice. Rabbie knew how this world worked, nobody’s fool. Rich man, poor man. A man’s a man for aw that. Yet still talent to count for naught, not what you know but who, and envy aye a stinger in the tail. There was ever the doon-drag. By the corner: four-fingered Gladstone, poor sword-less John Moore, James Watt with compasses and scroll (had the wee steam-man been a funny hand-shaker?), the Man with the Hat, accoutrement jammed with stones. So many statues scattered on the square like a bad salesman’s display in a sorry mason’s yard - brickwork smeared and streaked with thick dollops of pale birdshite. Milroy pitches the dog-end of his cigarette against the Equestrian Monument to Queen Victoria. He regards the statue, all the curlie-wurlies at its base. “Ah’ve often wondered which wan’s the horse,” he says. Hepburn shakes his head. “Ach, don’t be daft, man. Queen Victoria is the wan wi the wee wumman riding oan its back.” “That wid explain a lot aboot they Victorians. Looks like her face caught fire and they beat it oot wi’ a rake. Think yir cipher-man will renegue?” “Naw. The wee git is honourable in his ain way. He’ll no renegue.” “He’s a fly wee bugger but. See his eyes? He for definite is wan disnae care for you huvin his arm up his back oan his wedding day, Hepburn. Want for me tae swing by the Cathedral the night?” Hepburn shakes his head. “Naw. He’ll be by himsel. It’s his way. Disnae want naebody tae know he’s selling oot. Ah’ll handle it personal. You can give it the goby.” “Why’d ye say the Necropolis but?” This Hepburn considers. He isn’t sure why. There must be a reason. “Does it no make ye feel alive sometimes, Milroy, when yir oot at night walking wi the deid?” Milroy spits a gob upon Queen Victoria’s horse, a skein of spittle now strung low on the reins. “Ah’m no fond of graveyards masel.”


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Necropolis 1930 Hepburn gestures with mock disgust at the clinging web on the mane. “That’s treason, that is. The English’ll hang ye for less.” “Aye,” says Milroy. “They fuckers might as well.” Efter, Hepburn takes the rest of his Saturday to dander. His wanderings take him up to the West End and the Park and across the once beautiful romantic Kelvin whose banks are overgrown with weeds and choked sluggish with strews of rubbish, and then across the University grounds and the hothouse exotica of the Botanic Gardens. He sees a little red bird in a yellow bush and saunters down Sauchiehall, refreshed by nature. Parks were a small good thing and the man who invented them a fine specimen of humanity. Maybe the fella’s name was Park. The calsay is busy, an upscale crowd, very different from Argyle where all-comers mix, rich and poor, buttons and buttonholes. Hepburn buys toffee off a candyman and a hawker stuffs a flier into his fingers for the Panopticon at the Trongate. The Panopticon it is Stan Laurel played in the day, with Archie Leach, the dancing stilt walker. Hepburn takes a near cut down Douglas to Bath Street, his head as ever rattle-full of the gangs of Glasgow. Growing up in Govan, he’d known about the Bloodhound Flying Corps, the Hi-Hi’s, the Baltic Fleet (from Baltic Street). Then-a-days those were the boys, long departed. Now? The Brig Ahoy, the Silver Bell, the Ging-Gong, the South Side Stickers. The Cheeky Forty from Roystonhill and the Antique Mob from Shettleston. The Black Muffler was a Clydebank crew, or was it Greenock? The Savoy Arcadians, now there was a name. The rain commences a spitter but soon is pelting down, sponging the street awnings. In the gunmetal dusk, clouds run like watered ink and the rainwater spews in gutters gray and serpentine, slurries into grayer pools still. Aneath this bucketing Hepburn nips across Renfield and West Nile and up onto Cathedral. The ancient Gothic pile means nothing to him, all those chancels, naves and transepts too Catholic for his taste. He shoves through the cast-iron gates, above them carved the Merchants’ House symbol: the clipper on top of the world, underneath ‘Toties redeuntes eodem.’ Hepburn doesn’t know what those words mean. He knows it’s Latin. If he’d gone up the University or had been a Roman soldier back then, he’d have known it. That would have been good, being one of they Legionnaires. So long as you weren’t posted to Hadrian’s Wall to keep the Picts out. He crosses the ravine of the stintling Molendinar and pauses to lean on the lip of the ashlar parpane of the Bridge of Sighs - marking the place’s separation of time and eternity he supposes, bridged by a sigh - and after walks across into the old burying-ground. The night is droppit deep casket black. The step-over there is saugh-shaded and on the far side of the cleuch the steep bank, with the fir trees Pushing Out the Boat 12


Necropolis 1930 close planted, casts a second darkness its own, a dark on dark then, shadowing of shadows. In the gloamin, one lightening-daggered scrab is askoy and eerieful. An awful place was this. Hepburn shivers in the damp and keeps on his way, feels the wet cling of his souping-wet jacket and all overish creepy. At the Necropolis heart is the rainworn Knox memorial statue. No getting away from that twister, Old Thunderer high and gloomy as sin on his Doric column cylindrical pedestal, wide pedimented abacus, dog-eared acroteri draped dark in Geneva cap and gown, wishing the wrath of God thunderous still on the Sodom below; King of the city of the dead glaring yet askance down upon the city of the living. Hepburn has not before this night read the inscription. He does now: ‘There lieth he who never feared the face of man; who was often threatened with dag and dagger, yet hath ended his days in peace and honour.’ Hepburn can read these words because Knox decided in his day that the Scottish child would be a literate one. This irony Hepburn misses, shivering at the words, ‘dag and dagger’, ‘peace and honour’: as it was then, is now and ever shall. Killing time, Hepburn strolls amangst the crypts and inlaid stone slabs, some aslope, others bruckled, gazes stupefied at the Hope, Faith and Charity ringed spectral on the Houldsworth Mausoleum, admires the dashelled sculpture of a winged seraph bearing an extinguished torch, the lichens on the stones a strange green light. He lingers conspicuously by the allagrugous gateway of the Egyptian Vaults, thinks better of it and leans casual against the Miller memorial, which seems more appropriate and amuses him also. The rain sweeps ice cold in the dark, soaking clothing, skin. Afore lang Gilmartin appears from behind an antiquarian preacher’s stone like the counter-image of jaunty striding death, if the grim reaper ever was of gnomish inclination, or perchance some other sauntering dreepy ablach. He wears a cap of light tweed against the rain and his hands are stuffed dry in his pockets. He is still dressed for his wedding, eruptive rose in lapel. “Yir late,” Hepburn says. “Ah thought ye’d missed oor gloamin tryst.” “Ah wis performing mah marital duties. Is how come also ah’m jiggered.” “Taking the midgy oot tae the midden wur ye?” Gilmartin spits on the sopping grass, wet on wet. Always saliva expunged flying: city of great expectorations. Hepburn doesn’t spit, keeps fluids within, dainty sort. “Ah need you tae pit yir hands oan yir heid,” he says. “Whit?” “Best tae remove temptation. Yield not tae. Yielding is sin. Ye ken the hymn? Mibbe not. Ah keep forgetting yir a Tim.”


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Necropolis 1930 “Ah’m no carrying.” “That wid be for me tae decide.” “Should ah turn aroon and make the position mair familiar tae you?” Hepburn smiles and pats jacket and trousers carefully, empties pockets and turns down socks. He removes and looks under Gilmartin’s cap. Shakes it. Finds nothing. Gave me quite a turn there,” he says. “Coming oot the dark ah thought ye wur a walking tautie-bogle.” “Is it mah turn noo?” “Naw, you’ll jist have tae trust me.” “Ah widnae trust you as far as ah could throw ye. Ye’ll likely as no huv a razor in yir sock. Ah know yir type. Fixing tae make a Peter of me.” “Yir wrang. Razors jist disfigure. Ah’d mair likely huv a knife.” Clock-chime, and rain falls always and ever, black sheets of wet chilling to the bone, and Hepburn thinks it’s already twisted so he’ll best commence over. “So, how’s yir wedding night find you?” “Ah’m copacetic. Soaked, but copacetic.” “Been oot spending the tocher awready?” Gilmartin sniffs and points at the auld stone, black damp. “Who’s this? A relative?” “Noo that’s jist ignorance. This is the William Miller Monument. He’s the man wrote Wee Willie Winkie. Ken that? ‘Wee Willie Winkie runs through the toon. Upstairs and doonstairs in his night-goon. Knocking oan the window and crying through the lock. Are all the weans in their bed? For its past ten o’clock.’” “Ah ken the rhyme.” Hepburn keeps reciting, revelling in the other man’s annoyance. “‘Hey, Willie Winkie, are ye comin ben? The cat’s singin’ grey thrums to the sleepin hen.’” He stops, grinning insanely. Gilmartin scowls at him. “Ur you aboot done?”

Pushing Out the Boat 12


Necropolis 1930 Hepburn starts again, adding now a shoogle, two steps forward and one back. “‘The dog’s speldert on the floor and disnae gie a cheep. But here’s a waukrif laddie that wanna fa asleep.’” Gilmartin has a stare like a slap. Drips cascade from his cap onto the sparser grass at the monument foot. “Finished?” “Aye. But only cause ah cannae mind any mair. When ah wis a wee boy ah wis ‘the waukrif laddie that wanna fa asleep’”. “Glad tae hear it.” “You know, whenever ah see you, ah’m reminded of someone.” “The Registrar the day said ah look jist like Jimmie Maxton.” “You look nuthin like Jimmie Maxton.” “That’s jist whit ah says tae him. Ah says, ‘ah wish that arse of a polisman wis here. He’d clout ye oan the lug and tell ye how ah look nuthin like Maxton.’ In mah ain opinion,” Gilmartin added “ye ken who ah resemble mair than any member of the ILP?” “Chuckie the chimpanzee?” “That high-heid yin of your’s. Big boss-man. That Chief Constable Sillitoe. Sitting yonder in his castle like Hezekiah in aw his high sniffingness.” “How’d ye make that oot?” Gilmartin smiles: this to be an education. “See, him and me ur jist in either ends of the same racket. Like seeing in a fuckin mirror it is. But yir big chief isnae the unco-guid he thinks he is. Naw, see yir gaffer and me ur icksy-picksy. He might hob-nob wi’ the mucky-mucks, but he’s no the clean potato. Any mair than ur you, friend. Any mair than ur you.” Hepburn taps wet stone with knuckles, feels where soft moss grows furrily green. “Ah’m no here the night tae hear yir life philosophy, Gilmartin. Ah jist want the man. Ye’ve screened him enough.” Gilmartin sniffs, rubs at his nose with his palm. “You sure that’s it, son? See, ah’ve been watching you. Ah’ve seen ye strutting aroon like yir the cat’s meow. Don’t kid yirsel, pal.” Saying this, Gilmartin leans closer, his eyes like holes pissed in a snowbank.


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Necropolis 1930 Even in the dark Hepburn sees his reflection there. He cracks Gilmartin across the mouth with the back of his hand. It hurts some. The nerves of his fingers scrape like fuses. Gilmartin staggers back and Hepburn hits him hard on the forehead with his fist. The little man dreeps to his knees in the clarty mud, and bows there anent the monument like a flagellant before the altar of his punishing deity. A lace-string of blood hangs between nose and lips. He smiles, but his eyes do not go with his face. “You ken who ye remind me of yirsel, Hepburn? You want me tae say? Who ye resemble? For sheer badness as well?” Hepburn boots him hard in the stomach and Gilmartin pitches forward, his hand scrabbling to finger-splay on the stonework. He wheezes, hacking blood on the water. “Ah’d appreciate if ye didnae go slittering oan Willie Winkie’s tomb, man. That’s a cultural treasure that is.” From inside his sock, Hepburn extracts the cutthroat. He flicks open the blade and it sloughs. Gilmartin watches giggling still, flops back on the grass, sits, interested. His pockets hang out like elephant ears. “Git aff yir bahookie and give us yir jacket here,” Hepburn commands. Gilmartin complies, a gargle of blood in his throat, bibbles anent his nose. He sniffs out a small sac of mucus as he takes off and passes his jacket to Hepburn. Hepburn rolls it into a tight ball of serge blue and gives it back. Gilmartin gazes down at the mawkit jacket in his hands. He shrugs. “Mop up they bloodstains will you?” says Hepburn. “This is embarrassing.” Gilmartin’s eyes are on the razor as he wipes the red smearing. Finished, he rubs his face clean with the sleeve and chucks his jacket. His trousers are clagged with muck. What a terrible wedding night. “Yir jist like me,” he says. “Ah’m nuthin like you.” “Jist the same. Exact.” “Well? Take yir pick noo and be done. Him ur ah cut yir throat. Ah ken whit ah’d choose in the circumstances.” “Cannae believe ah went and trusted ye the night. Sure, he’s a fool that asks ower muckle and a bigger wan that gives it.”

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Necropolis 1930 “Yir full of shite wee sayings right enough. Got an almanac for Christmas did ye?” “Here’s anither yin, fuck. A dog winna yowl if ye strike him wi’ a bane. Ah’m struck and ah’d like mah fuckin bane noo. A guarantee. How do ah know ye’ll no cut us? How do ah know it’s no twelve above five below?” As he speaks Gilmartin traces an arc across his eyebrow with his fingers. Hepburn sneers, scunnered. “Cause ah couldnae be bothered dulling mah razor oan yir ugly chops.” Gilmartin licks his lips. A smear of blood transfers now to his tongue. He spits again in the grass, taps teeth with tongue, feeling for a loosening. “So?” “72 Greenhead Street. It’s a room and kitchen. Jist him.” Hepburn hunkers and replaces the razor in his sock, feels it slip cold against his ankle. He lets the leg of his trousers down. Pats his leg. “Ah’m a man of mah word,” he says. “Ah’ll no use this the night. “A gentleman. Christ, a right gentleman you ur. Aye, ye might make a fine Chief Constable some day at this rate, a polisman of the first water.” Hepburn smacks his skull with an elbow. The impact pitches Gilmartin back and he thwacks his head agin the brick, stone-hollow resonance, topples onto his side and does not flinch. He snuffles still a bit though. Hepburn inclines across the prone man and howks him upright by the lank of his hair. Examines his handiwork. The man is out stiff, wouldn’t feel a thing in the surgery. Hepburn reaches into his sock and feels for the blade again, as though reconsidering, contemplating a scalping, or worse. If this is so, he changes his mind. “Fuck,” he declaims to a stone angel in weathered robes. “Ah’m a better man than you. Whit ah tell you? Nuthin like. Nuthin.” Gilmartin he leaves besmottered in a clatch of mud and blood aneath the memorial. He walks brisk away through avenues of the sleeping dead and looks neither left nor right on his approach to the stream’s brattle. But then he stops and turns and looks again at high glowering Knox. And now Hepburn is come back. Gilmartin still lies like fallen statuary. Hepburn boots him in the stomach twice and bends and runs the razor slow across his cheek, a rip like paper tearing and a bubbling up red. He wipes the blade clean on Gilmartin’s hair, whispers soft in his ear. “Chief Constable, eh? Fit-licker, eh? Ya wee arse.”


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Necropolis 1930 He slows his pace only when he reaches High Street and stops at a box on the Trongate to call in. Greenhead. Room and kitchen. Nae bother. Fuck’s catched this time. He breathes thick. The rain is spitting now, a scarrow to the east of the river and on the horizon a withergloom emergent. Hepburn pulls his coat tight around him like some cowled gnome and walks on into the haar.

Rob McClure Smith

Unnatural History No 1

Neil Russell

Ink jet print Pushing Out the Boat 12


Miss Dolly Crombie [Speaking out in Aberdeen Art Gallery]

I’ve only agreed to sit here smouldering in red with more red climbing up the wall behind me because they’ve promised me an iPad and an iPhone and unlimited time on Facebook.

But I’ve been here for hours, holding this fan. Can’t I hold my mobile? What difference would it make? I could text my friends - tell them I’m bored. But he isn’t having any. Ditto for the gear.

Let’s ditch this phoney Spanish look, these cheesy flowers. Let me wear my funky top, my awesome fit jeans, my layered gladiators and on the wall behind a poster of Brad Pitt.

This painter guy’s nice, but he’s so not cool. How can he expect me to look happy, to smile? You look as if you’re about to burst into flames, he said just now. That’s his problem.

Olivia McMahon


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Desert Dream

digital photo art Beate Allerton

Pushing Out the Boat 12


At Which Crossroads Did We Part? Inspired by Dr Richard Leakey’s account of the discovery of the Lake Turkana Boy, in ‘Origins Reconsidered’


he young male had fallen behind his companions. Through the dust which caked his thigh, thick beads of dark red blood gleamed unpleasantly and he was weary to his bones. The lake lay in a tantalizing shimmer of heat, making him long for her coolness and wetness, drawing him to her. She was like the young females of the clan, who had begun to watch him shyly, but with a look in their eyes that made him feel at once pleased and wary of their mysteries. His feet, that earlier that morning had walked so proudly with the band, were faltering, but the other hunters, buoyed up by a successful kill, sped on along the track only they could see: a leaf bruised here, a displaced twig there, a stone marked. So he would go now directly to the water’s edge, then return along the shoreline to his folk in the soft dimness that came after the hot blazing eye slid from the sky, spilling its blood over the faraway hills like the antelope that the clan’s hunters had so lately brought down. It had been his first hunt. Until now he had stayed with the females and the young of the clan, clinging tightly to his mother’s dugs, like all scrawny, damp-haired newborns, suckling greedily at the milky sweetness there. Then, riding on her back, his skinny fingers entwined in her dark, wiry hair, he watched with bright, beady eyes, as she and her sisters foraged for nuts and tubers in an ever-widening circle round the camp. They knew the rhythms of tree and bush, plundering fruit at its sweetest and forking pale wriggling grubs out of slits and cracks where they lay curled from the world. His deft-handed mother was a wise one, deferred to by the others, the female most often chosen by the big male, the leader of the clan. She had strong young, felt in her bones the weather and moods of the land, kept safe in her heart the green secrets of growing things. One day she would whisper her carefully gathered lore to her daughters. Then one day he left his mother and ran, taking fierce delight in the knock-kneed skinniness of his long legs, leaping into the freshness of the morning world, learning the story of his folk as he walked the tracks and trails. Once upon a time they had lived in the darkness of the forest, clicked the old story-tellers, weaving their magic as the clan huddled close against the dark plush of the night. They had once spun and sailed in headlong flight across the leafy canopy. They had lifted up their voices in the warning chorus. They had crouched on all fours in the fusty dimness beneath the trees, peering timidly out at the world from their familiar Eden. Like, but not like, the hairy creatures that he glimpsed from the corner of his eye as he ran, but who vanished like will-o’-wisps when he turned to stare. Creatures once known, that had not come with them when they stood upright on the forest floor and had not followed when they left the forest and finally turned to face the teeming plains.


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At Which Crossroads Did We Part? And then the hunters had pointed to him. Proudly he would go with them out into the open veldt, where shadows weaved forever through the rustling grasses; where he would breathe deeply the rich, ripe stink of the roaming herds; where fangs flashed and tall hunters of the clan fell and moved no more. The hunt was well planned. The chief male led his band out into the bush as soon as he smelled the return of the fiery eye. To the young male it was still dark as he followed, keeping close to the older hunters, reassured by their warm breath on his neck; but a light wind was rising and the texture of the darkness was fraying. Through a ragged grey veil he could see acacias take distinctive shape. The older males knew where they were going, had scouted the territory in the days before the hunt, had watched the herds streaming across the land, had noted, with hard eyes, the old beasts, the young and sickly struggling to keep pace, the unwary straying to the edges of the herd. As a cub, lying by the camp-fire, he had many times been lulled to sleep by the grunting, boastful sagas of the hunters, miming extravagantly the clever traps and ambushes set for confused and terrified animals, the brave stand against plunging hoof and horn, bright heart’s blood on grinning faces. And when they reached the place of the kill, that rite would be his. His stomach had lurched with fear and excitement and he had desperately wanted to piss, but he must keep to his ordered place in the troop. Silently they had hunkered down in a sandy hollow, listening and watching as the leader grunted and signed, sometimes making marks in the dust to show the way of the hunt. Then it was all one sweating pack, the rhythm of disciplined feet beating the trail. A hard pattern of stones flung from rough slings, howling figures with clay-smeared faces leaping from the brush into the path of the terrified prey and, suddenly elated, he had leapt too soon, forgotten his place. Sharp hooves sliced down, catching him a blow on the temple, raking his thigh. For a few moments he had lain where he had fallen and might have ended there with the beast, if a sturdy hunter had not kicked him hurriedly out of his way and out of reach of the crashing death-dealers. Winded and sick to his stomach with shame, he could only watch as the band brought down the big antelope at last. The chief straddled the neck with its elegant markings, held a jagged lump of stone high over his head and brought it crashing down on the animal’s narrow skull. Dark smoking blood blurted and the hunters closed round the beast: tentatively at first, then baying their triumph to the skies, moving across his blurring vision in a red-spattered dance of death. Unnoticed, he had climbed to his feet and stood shakily apart as the hunters, their frenzy forgotten, seemed to bow low to their fallen prey. The beast was lifted with solemn ceremony across strong shoulders in readiness for the journey homewards. There was no time to dally; other, sharper-fanged hunters would be quick to catch the taste of blood in the air. With one last look at the trampled and silent deathplace, he had limped stiffly after the last hunter into the tall grass. Pushing Out the Boat 12


At Which Crossroads Did We Part? Startled, the boy found himself already at the edge of the lake. In his dazed state he had blundered through a patch of reeds and was slipping down the crumbling bank. He flung out a hand to save himself and winced in pain as the sharp razor grass, which fringed this part of the shore, sliced his palm; but the water was warm in the shallows and soothing to his wounds. He would lie here for a time, letting his hurts heal. The great armoured water beasts were not often seen in these parts. When he awoke the dimness had already come, only a few pale streamers of light still glowed where the land met the sky. Above him an unseen hand was scattering faint silver seeds across the vault of the sky and he thought of his mother shaking the husks from wild grasses with an intent look on her face. He smelled rain and tasted its metallic tang in the air and knew he should move on, but his leg was throbbing and when he lifted his head a wave of sickness assailed him. He vomited copiously and lay back, trembling He would stay, he thought, until light returned. Then he could follow the trail easily and would meet the clan when they came to search for him. The euphoria, which always greeted the triumphant return of the hunters, would eventually die. After the gralloching of the animal and the clamour to share in the tastiest morsels from liver and heart, the females would set about the butchering of the carcass. All would share in the bounty. Then they would see he was not with them. He would make himself safe for the night. The bank overhung the lake here and he found he could pull himself some way underneath and into what was almost a cave, but movement brought back the glistening tight band of pain. It was some time before he was satisfied with his hideaway and he dozed fitfully, his dreams crowded with hectic colours and stiff, jerking images that were hard to shake off and followed him into wakefulness. A gnarled root was digging insistently into his back and something brushed against his foot. He jerked backwards in a spasm of terror, startling a small school of curious lake fish which had begun to nibble at the water-sucked flesh of his toes. It was a few moments before he realized that he wasn’t lying in his usual place beside the other young males, safe in the rocky shelter of the lake-shore den. The pain in his leg had lost its edge, but there was something more frightening about the tight throbbing heat that had replaced it. Although he could raise his head without drowning in waves of sickness, his body felt leaden and bone-weary and there was a greying at the edge of his sight. Once when a cub, he had burned with a brief fever. His mother had come with her cooling, healing hands, crushing sweet-smelling herbs, soothing his fretting with soft sing-song murmurs. Somehow he knew this time she would not come. The gatherers’ harvest was diminishing and the troop would soon wander on along the margins of the lake, but they would go without him.


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At Which Crossroads Did We Part? A small ache of regret grew inside him. He would never know if the Walkers had returned; never hear the stories they would sing with tongue and hand to his entranced folk, tales of their walking far and wide. He would never again hear of other folk the Walkers had met. Clans, who trekked the faraway hills at the edge of the world; who lived by wide, brown rivers and could swim as fleetly as the lake otters. The Walkers were the restless ones of the troop. One day he thought they would leave the lake forever and walk another tale. But would the land know them if they returned? Would they ever again join in the dance of the beasts of plain and forest? Black jagged rents tore the fabric of the air and he felt himself drift from the world again. And in his fever dream he saw the Walkers beckon as they turned from the land of the lake. Saw the chief turn aside with a shake of his head. Saw his mother take her young and follow the Walkers into a spreading world. Through the rain of years, saw many cross-roads and many partings. Saw a mighty man fold his tents and leave a mud-brick town between two rivers, driving his flocks and folk in the eternal search for a promised land.

Saw strange hills of stone built by a queen with his mother’s eyes. Saw silken girls spin tales in palaces of sand. Saw the blood bright scimitars of shepherd kings flash in the bare light of the steppes. Saw a lamb fluttering red-throated on a green hill. Saw the Walkers meet the salty rush of a great sea and hear at last the cold song of the North.

A sudden wind rattled the dry sticks of the acacias, fat raindrops bounced high off the surface of the lake and thunder prowled across the plains. Later heavy rain brought down the overhanging bank, enfolding the young male’s body in a flowing blanket of mud. ~~~ At a dig near Lake Turkana an expert Kenyan fossil hunter discovers a skull fragment from a fossil hominid. Over the weeks that follow, excitement mounts world-wide, as a world famous paleoanthropologist and his team painstakingly unearth the skeleton of a boy from under a wait-a-bit thorn tree. It is thought to belong to the species, Homo Erectus. They call him Lake Turkana Boy. He has a name now and he has come, after a million years of silence, to tell the story of his folk. Linda Smith Pushing Out the Boat 12


Pyracantha He planted a pyracantha on the north side of the house where it needed brightening. The bush would grow if it wanted to he said. That stuff about letting it have direct sun was nonsense. And it grew: about eighteen inches, and along the ground. It flowered one year but only one. It never had the spectacular scarlet berries he had bought it for and his children laughed at it. Aye, that’s Dad, they said more bitterly some of them than others. Judith Taylor


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Drying Green

Jane Pettigrew


Pegging Out the Clothes She sways to the whipping wind, to the chap-chap of knuckle drum on window pane. Her mother’s salty words mouth years of discontent, the tut-tut, while arms signal hang the clothes the proper way, tighten up the rope. She yields to the nipping pegs, to the cracking sheets with washed out stripes. Fair Isle stranded cuffs strike their harsh and cold against her ruddy cheeks, while inside her mother spins another bitter moment. The clothes air and wait to be released. Janice Keir

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easter morning a girl is running towards me in the morning light her hair melts into the sunshine her hands her skirt her shoes her body all melt into the sunshine transparent the girl is running towards me the sunlight slips into the woods the girl becomes green treetops whisper to each other as if they’d heard one morning in a foreign country their own mother tongue the girl goes out to the meadow a pair of cream-coloured cows are chewing dewy grass how will the green of the grass change inside the bellies of these cows wonders the girl the girl comes to an orchard apples are about to ripen their fragrance soaks the air and lingers like mist the girl becomes the fragrance the apple skins grow resilient resist bursting in the bright light the girl is running on and on light breaks wind rises squirrels awake the girl comes into the room where I am asleep my dream is dyed many colours I hear the sound of water welling I see how time moves like water welling the girl and I go delicately beyond my dream the girl slowly fades I slowly awake I see the sun Andrew McCallum


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three poems for trish 1

painting a landscape

green sap blinded with white a snowclad forest angle your brush dip it in blue smear the background violet the colour of a bruise paint a sea beaten by a furious wind crimson the colour of blood dot the land with small deaths leaving the sea enough water to flood the landscape


outside st mary’s

wednesday nights choir practice stained glass without god love without the word to weigh it down wind in the trees coaxing leaves to life branches swaying, cradling the light is this the holy spirit? so delicate that those who hold it cannot feel its weight? it is colour and wind, tree and kirk like art and love given breath as real as brick and glass as voices singing light splashing limbs wind riffling leaves

burnt umber and charcoal brown desires



white unmixed let its oils flood your brush in a reverse stroke cover everything say a quiet word to the cat when you wake in the dark house with a final curtsy before the light grows loud enter the landscape say good morning to the fears that cover everything skulk by your bed become everything say hello before they dash beneath the shadows red through violet charcoal through white say good evening to the flies until you and the canvas are one scrambling in and out of the jam jar sign your name on your body say a word to them stand back admire your handiwork to the geese working toward a place of greater warmth say goodbye without hesitation Andrew McCallum

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Marking A Level Scripts Marking these scripts is the abracadabra that folds me into my past. Each paper represents a faceless thought, a young ambition I could thwart with weary carelessness. They think a die is cast, that their result is chance at best. But, no, it isn’t luck or star-cross’d eyes. It’s me – as their hopes fade. It wouldn’t be deliberate. No grave malignancy of mind would misappropriate a grade or consciously conclude an excellent response with ‘I can’t find a single spark of insight here.’ There might just be a low-grade inefficiency a shadow stretching from my eye, a ghastly insubstantial tear which cringes down my pen my fell blow not expressed in ink but in the melancholy silent sigh that nests between the lines, the invisible dust of praise I meant to give and thoughts I meant to think. Someone like me has marked my own work many times, all those years before my middle-age, rolled right back to my birth. No doubt, they’ve felt the ashy rage of boredom rolling their eyes, the same urge to garden-gaze, wear out the heart. When did this torture start? Where did it say this is the way to judge a person’s worth? Louise Wilford


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Swimming in the Rain

Hilary Duncan

45cm diam bowl, made of terracotta clay with coloured slips and sgraffito, fired to stoneware temperatures.

Coffee with Cardea “What did the doctor say?” I ask. “It’s spread,” Cardea says, blowing across the top of her coffee. She tips a sachet of brown sugar in and stirs. Keeps her eyes down, fixed on the mug. “To where?” She shakes her head. “Let’s talk about something else, ok? Something nice.” Samuel Best

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The Poet

For Kenneth Steven

His voice is soft, smooth; as a poet’s should be. Speaking words that are indifferent, mysterious, the same as me. His jumper, I suspect a suspect Christmas present from mother. She’ll be glad he wears it. His hairline, thin on top, a few brown curls lurk around his neck. A rocker turned poet, clinging to his youth? His eyes grey, unlike the moon. They are grey and dull, not as a poet’s should be. His corduroy trousers, are those still in production? He must walk with the trees, blend with bracken. Yet here I judge, red haired, floral trousers. He probably thinks the same of me. Megan Seymour


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Age 17

In Whaley

Eleanor Leonne Bennett Age 17


Pushing Out the Boat 12


See a Whale Dive Deep Down You won’t find a bee in the sea, or a lizard, bear or stoat. Shrimps and fish are what you’ll find, who dread the fishing boat. You dive down into the waves, to see what lurks within. To see the eels so long, to see the fishes’ shining fins. Turn to the west, excitingly. See a whale dive deep down. you gape at it in amazement, as it doesn’t make a sound. You see some squid so graceful, one of them is deep pink. You eye it very suspiciously, as it might have given you a wink. You’re running out of time, you have to get back up. You get there just in time. What a stroke of luck! Malcolm Cowie


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Age 11

Beach - The Musical The pebbles approach the set, playing the lead role. The pebbles clack together creating the tune. Clacking, colliding beneath my sandals. Bold seagulls come into view, screeching up and down the electric scale. Honk! Honk! The brass boats sail down the harbour, bellowing out the sound of their deep horns. The crabs create the starting chorus clicking their pincers across the sandy stretch. The strong waves crash together. Booming, colliding together. As a storm approaches thunder beats loudly to the rhythm. The gentle seaweed sways near the shore, lowering the raging temper of the stormy seas. The seaweed sings a soft duet with the starfish. The final sequence is played by the star of the show. A beautiful, magical creature appears, silencing the shore with a lullaby. A flick of the tail ends the song.

Natalya Brentnall

Age 13


Ally Taylor Age 13

Colour pencil on paper

Pushing Out the Boat 12



David Elder


Photographic Image

Pushing Out the Boat 12

To the Mountains


he older he gets, the closer he comes to being a landscape, the crags and lumps of him, his folds and foliage. He is marked by everything that’s happened. In the bathroom lit by early morning light through one small window, a fern stands between him and the old mirror, half covering him from himself. He can see the reflected clutter behind and his own body as he moves, more bone and sinew now than muscle or even flesh. What gets him is the way the skin hangs loose. It collects at his knee and elbow joints on its way south, the way a river’s flow is held back temporarily by rocks beneath the surface. He dunks his flannel in the sink and squeezes it out then brings it to his face to feel the opening heat on his skin, primping his beard into shape at the end. He breathes deep, dunks the flannel again and sluices the water over his shoulders. As it drips down his back he shivers with pleasure. The girls might be up and about by now. He doesn’t know their habits and he wants to be sure to catch them before they leave. Wanting this, he did not sleep so well, kept waking to check on the time and finally gave up, went and made himself a strong coffee and drank it standing at the kitchen door. Mist still hung about the hills but the sheep were already awake, racketing as usual. He found a bow saw and went out to the woodpile, cut two four foot poles from good, straight branches, then examined them at arm’s length. He decided they would do. He likes it when he gets women out here. Often, too often, it’s groups of men with their nifty packs and all the gear, their waterproofs on, all emblazoned and too new. They always insist on firing up their camping stoves on the bunkhouse table even though there’s a perfectly good microwave. They talk too loudly and pat each other on the shoulders – him too if he gets too close. You can tell the people who don’t belong here. Men like that attack a walk as if their life depended on it. They go too fast and too straight. The land round here is like a woman. It unfolds slowly, gives up its secrets slowly. You have to treat it that way. You have to meander. You have to bring your attention and your delight to what you find. These two didn’t have the gear; in fact they were on the scruffy side. He watched them walk down the hillside to the old church. They were laughing together about something and their hair shone in the late afternoon sun. He waited a few minutes inside the cottage not doing anything in particular. When he went out they were by the locked door to the bunkhouse, two blondies, their cheeks pink with walking and weather. He took them into the room adjoining the old church and sat them down, the one with her wild laugh, the other quieter, earnest – both of them taking a good swig of the whisky he offered round. The quiet one, he could see she was scared. Maybe it was the day they’d had. Maybe it was the thought of the walk ahead. Some idiot in the tourist office had tried to warn them off. He had told them that the streams are wide and deep with run-off from the hills this time of year, the flow fast. One of the streams can be impassable in some weathers if you aren’t experienced, he said. Wild-laugh girl saying, each one we wade through we’re wondering, was that the one he meant? Pushing Out the Boat 12


To the Mountains They were thinking about walking back to Mallaig instead of going on to the bothy and to Inverie. They asked his advice. He tried to give them the pros and cons. He doesn’t want to be responsible, but he doesn’t want them to turn back – seems a shame. He gave them another dram, in three glasses this time so they could clink them together. He told them some of his best stories, asked for some gossip from town, and saw them start to relax. They turned in for the night saying they would sleep on it. After they left he could hear them on the other side of the wall having the run of the place, their pick of bunk beds. One of them fired up the organ and started to play handfuls of blues chords. There was laughter and muffled talk, the clatter of pans and dishes and then, finally, quiet. He reaches for the old towel hung on the back of the door and dries himself, enjoying its roughness. Yesterday’s clothes are in a pile, half on the clotheshorse and half fallen off onto the floor. He begins to pull them back on, his shoulders hunching into the dampish cold. There was a time when he would have been all over the mountains. He would have been more help then. He knows the stream the guy meant but he hasn’t been out that way for a while. As far as he can see the girls should take a risk – big strong things like that. He would tell them to, but he keeps thinking about that night he broke his ankle and ended up stranded. Tripped over a root in the half dark and took a tumble. Just one of those things. Stupid. That must be forty years ago now. He knew the mountains and they knew him, but that night he felt what it would be like to be old and doddery, to lose confidence in his own feet. Each step became a question. Each known feature took a different hue. He must have stopped for a rest at some point; that was when it occurred to him that his old friends the mountains had fallen asleep with their backs to him. They would not hold him. They would not wrap their arms around him and breathe into him their deep green. They left him laid in the grass like a toy discarded when you got called in for tea, out under the clear cold logic of the stars. With the dark the temperature had dropped. The pain in his broken ankle started to bother him. He felt the Grand Scheme of Things that people always bang on about. To the mountains, he realised, it doesn’t really matter if you die now, this way, or another way a little later. The choice was his. Once he had seen it, he couldn’t unsee it. Edging into middle age he had already come loose from the ordinary life he had once assumed he would have, the sensible work and a wife, the children. He was a man of the mountains – everyone knew him that way – a man without things to return to. That night he had thought it through. He thought about what he would face if he went back, the slow decline, the aches and pains, the narrowing of possibilities. If he wanted, he could stay among the heather, go out in his youth and strength and be a tale to tell, a blaze of glory like Bonnie and Clyde. Like Clyde anyway. There never really had been a Bonnie. As he lay there he got sentimental about the things that had not been, the misunderstandings and the mistakes and the wasted time. He tried inventing alternative lives for himself – stirring up sweet melancholy, bittersweet regret – but in the end he found he couldn’t believe in them.


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To the Mountains By sunrise he had known what to do. In the end it was not so much decision as need. He was hungry and his mouth parched dry. He thought of the chop he had left on a plate in the fridge. He imagined himself pouring a glass of water from the tap. Also the old horse chestnut needed to come down before it fell on the house – he had promised the owner he would take care of it. It took him hours to get back to the place he was staying, to the washing up still in the sink and the papers to be sorted. Even now he can feel that walk, taste it almost; the Technicolor hobble, the grit-toothed will. It’s like remembering a dream. At the end of the long day, he sat down at the table in his hall, let his head sink back against the wall, and closed his eyes. Then he picked up the telephone and called for help. He never has found his Bonnie, although there were women for a time. At the age of eighty-five those days are past of course. He chuckles at the thought, then notices his moving reflection out of the corner of his eye and turns to get a better look. The smile flits away and he stands still. He regards the lines carved into his face, the grizzled beard and the fine green cat eyes, flecked with gold. He breathes and the world expands. He purrs with being alive. He still doesn’t know if the life he has chosen is the one he was meant to have. It doesn’t matter now. He goes out into the kitchen and picks up the two sticks from behind the door, as well as a scrap of paper from the worktop. He goes across the grass to his little room adjoining the old church. Three glasses from the previous night still stand on the table. One of its hinged leaves is extended with a map spread across it, and he has to hold in his stomach and shuffle to get round. He knocks and a voice answers. He opens the door. One of them sits by the window, frowning over some sewing. She looks up. He sees that she is trying to reattach the handle of her rucksack. The other girl hangs back, her hands in her hair to tie it away from her face. Several of the empty bunk beds are strewn with drying clothes and the big central table is a mess of dirty pans and plates. ”Sleep alright?” he says. He stoops to go through the doorway and the sticks clatter against its frame. ”Yes. Thanks. We needed it.” The other one pipes up then. “We couldn’t believe how quiet it is,” she says, and she takes a step forward. He looks at her. ”What did you decide about today?” “We thought we might as well keep going,” she says. He nods. “Okay,” he says. “Good.” He looks down at his hands and then takes a couple of steps further into the room. He stands the two walking sticks against the table. “These might help,” he says. Pushing Out the Boat 12


To the Mountains The one with the sewing puts it down then and stands up. “Are they for us?” The other one just stares. He nods. Crushed in his palm, he remembers now, is his telephone number, biroscrawled on a scrap of lined paper. He has written his name on there too, just in case. Girls like this probably get given telephone numbers all the time – pockets full of them. ”Ring me when you get to the pub in Inverie,” he says. The quiet one smiles then, kindly, like she might with her dad, indulging him. “If you like,” she says. ”Don’t forget,” he says. “Or I’ll be calling out the mountain rescue.” The other has picked up one of the sticks. She feels its weight and examines it. He tries to see it through her eyes. She allows it to slip through her palm until one end bounces on the flagstone floor and then she starts to walk. With each step she swings it up in front of her, and then plants it as she strides forward. She allows it the merest drag on the floor then scoots it up again into the air. She goes twice round the table, humming something heroic. The girls, he notices, are grinning then. The three of them are grinning like idiots and not knowing what to say. After they have gone, he waits in his small room until he knows they will be over the brow of the hill and into the next valley. Then he pours a dram of whisky into last night’s glass and carries it outside. He stands for a good long moment, eyeballing the flank of the opposite hill, the tall mountains ranged behind. They are playing their usual trick, those mountains, pretending to sit still, pretending they have been here forever, even though he knows fine well about their dramas, the creations and destructions that have shaped them. He raises his glass to them and he swallows it down. There is a kind of prayer that only the land can hear, the kind not on behalf of anyone or anything. It is the biggest prayer he knows and something in him says it now. They will forget him, these girls. And the land will not miss him; it is nothing but a great forgetfulness, seeing everything, and letting it all go. The hills across from him, still wrapped in mist, are tender this morning. So is he. Tender and soft and worn out. He takes one last look in the direction they have gone, and then he turns and goes back inside. Sarah Whiteside


Pushing Out the Boat 12


K Castle-Anderson

Woodcut with inks on Fabriano paper

Pushing Out the Boat 12


Night Swimming, Loch Garten The sky has laid an egg, created in its image and cradled deep within a nest of pines. Entering takes time; my feet are shackled first, my knees, my thighs, my arms and wrists are bound by silver strands and then - quick gasp – as water grasps my waist, uncurls my hands and slowly draws me out beyond the edge, where toes no longer feel the fudge of peat, the twist of roots, the unforgiving jeopardy of stones. If you called me to you now, I would not come. The breeze has soothed my wake, the moonlight spilt like milk upon the surface of the loch. But look for me, I’m there: a fallen constellation, glimmering.

Jets Two of them, from hill to sea, dissect the sky in one long dopplered scream as if they mean to disembowel the day; so, later, you are not surprised to come across the moon, congealing in a kidney dish of rain, the lake holding its viscera of stars. Heather Reid


Pushing Out the Boat 12

Antonym 5

Pauline Thomas

digital image

Pushing Out the Boat 12


Uncle Dod Dod's doucot wis a narra spart'n shed eneuch fir thirty racers happit doon oan thir ruists retired skipper he needit thaim myndin him o the wund the blae lift wild hert driver o a desire the dous gaed back whit he'd loast bricht een kent him ane wis his champion A picked her oot a reid-een'd pure white Brussel hou de'y ken he speired it's the bluid A said yours in mine a faimly thing nous A said the white dou croodlin in ma haun

Alexander Lang


Pushing Out the Boat 12

The Dream o the Restless Bairnickie I dreamt I jyned the Seelie Coort an rade upon a futterat’s back it could baith flee an sweem the tide an breenge ben mony’s a happit track I slept aneth a puddock’s steel I sprouted wings, sae moosewab licht I climmed the steepest watter linn haudin a salmon’s tailie, ticht I steppit inno warlocks’ haas an watched them steer their potions roon I wyved ma eildtrich wan, an syne I gart ten siller stars drap doon I kept a tiger in ma pooch I liked tae hear it yawn an purr an fin a bogieman lowped oot it chased him wi a muckle gurr I fand a gowden clarsach braw it played me mony’s the canty tune an it could daunce baith but and ben frae midnicht’s quaet tae noisy noon an fin it rained, abune ma heid I held alaft a gowan flooer an fin it snaaed a robin tuik an warmed me in its feathery booer I hurled on beeswings throw the mist tae crannies mortals dinna ken tae play wi feys an fire-flauchts* the blithest bairnie in the glen!

*lightning bolts

Sheena Blackhall

Pushing Out the Boat 12


summer storm channel country

Tim Winters


mixed media on canvas

Pushing Out the Boat 12

North to Algeria


obody says much as we approach the border post at In Guezzam. We are each locked in our private thoughts, dreading the prospect of being turned back. Also, Carrie is sick. She doesn’t complain but is pale, her skin tinged green. Each time we go over a bump in the road she moans involuntarily. It is two days since we passed any sign of human habitation, two days of continuous driving on a dirt road across a terrain of semi desert, sparsely peppered with thorn bushes and the odd herd of emaciated goats and camels. If the border guards won’t allow Carrie and Emmett into Algeria, we will have to drive five days back to the nearest international airport at Niamey, the capital of Niger. There they should be able to catch a plane to Morocco. If we do have to go back it will take Rob and I fully three weeks to catch up with them again in Morocco, always assuming the old Landrover makes it that far. We drive gloomily onwards between low grey dunes under a sky devoid of colour until, suddenly, the frontier looms into sight. A metal sign, bridging the road, pockmarked with bullet holes, announces Algerie vous souhaite la bienvenue, Algeria welcomes you. The greeting is repeated in Arabic script. As we climb out of the Land-rover, a desolate wind whistles through the bullet holes and blows sand in our faces. There are no visible buildings, no signs of life. The place is bleak beyond bleak: we could be on the moon. From behind a dune, two uniformed guards appear: these are the first pale-skinned Africans we have met after five weeks travelling northwards. We have reached Arab Africa. The two guards appraise us through dark, unsmiling eyes. ~ ~ ~ Back on the coast in Abidjan, three weeks earlier, we’d been obliged to visit the Algerian embassy every day for a week trying to get Emmett’s and Carrie’s passports stamped with the necessary entry visas for Algeria. Visas weren’t a problem for Rob and I: the British weren’t regarded as enemies of the Arabs. Americans, however, were: Egypt, a brother Arab state of Algeria, had just received a humiliating defeat in the Six-Day War with Israel; USA was seen to be in cahoots with Israel. On the day of our fourth visit, the official behind the desk gave us a typically Gallic shrug (strange how the French had imparted not only their language but their gestures too). “Pardon messieurs dames, on attend toujours la réponse d’Algers, we are still waiting for the reply from Algiers.” This was too much for Emmett: with fists clenched and eyes glinting maniacally, he advanced ominously towards the desk. Only the quick wits and gentle power of Long Rob averted a disaster. He put a restraining hand on Emmett’s shoulder: “C’mon pal, let’s get a beer and leave this tosser to the diplomats,” - that was Carrie and me. I watched Emmett edge another few centimetres towards the official and shoot him a testosterone-charged glare. Then he turned abruptly and left with Rob: “See you in Pa Kokoumbo’s bar,” Rob called as the door swung behind them. I checked the Algerian’s face to see if there was any response either to Rob’s insulting remark or Emmett’s pugilistic stare: he remained impassive throughout. But our diplomatic efforts were in vain: again we departed empty-handed and disconsolate.

Pushing Out the Boat 12


North to Algeria Arriving in Abidjan we’d been in high spirits, thrilled to be in this vibrant young Afro-French capital, the Paris of West Africa. What a refreshing change: to sit in a pavement café, surrounded by hibiscus and bougainvillea, vivid against the dazzling white architecture which cut such sharp edges against the blue of the sky. To relax with a cool beer, to forget the dusty pot-holed road, to gaze at the chic girls swinging by. After the second beer, the local women seemed to grow prettier, the French ones less so: somehow the Europeans looked wan, drawn, bony, like fish-out-of-water in the bright tropical light, while the local girls glowed with colour, swung their hips with easy grace, utterly at home. I reflected that the reverse was also true back in Britain, seeing in my mind’s eye the pinched faces of Africans shivering under northern winter skies, while the Europeans with their bright winter clothes and pink faces looked happy and at ease in their own locale. The thought that each looked more beautiful in their own home environment seemed to lend a certain poetic symmetry to the observation. While we’d waited for news from the Algerian embassy, we’d bivouacked on the outskirts of the capital beneath a fringe of palm trees bordering a long, steeplyshelving beach of golden sand. Each night we were lulled to sleep by the crash of breakers. In the daylight hours we watched the 10-men dugout pirogues - hewn from the mighty trees of the forest - beating through the surf to land their catches of glittering sardines. It took me straight back to the Ghanaian fishermen on the beaches of the Freetown peninsula, except that here the canoes seemed to sport more rakish prows, more vividly coloured symbols scored into the dark wood of their hulls. On the fifth day, the Friday, we’d returned to the Embassy, knowing it would soon close for the weekend, desperate for a decision. We were variously dejected, angry, depressed, according to our temperaments. But it was different this time: the officials in Algiers had finally made up their minds. We waited with baited breath. The sallow-skinned bureaucrat, hands folded on his desk, looked at us without emotion: “Messieurs dames, C’est avec regret que je dois vous informer…” We didn’t need to hear the rest but it went something along the lines of North Americans being absolutely forbidden to cross any frontier into Algeria. A whole week we had waited to be told this! As we left the Embassy to the angry cursing of Emmett and Carrie’s silence, a heavy gloom settled over us. It was Long Rob who finally broke it: “Look,” he said, “why don’t we drop you two in town? Talk it over. We’ll go along with whatever you decide; what do you say, Ben?”


Pushing Out the Boat 12

North to Algeria “Absolutely,” I replied. “Why don’t we meet up at Pa Kokoumbo’s at four?” Emmett turns to Carrie: “What d’ya say, hun?” “Sure.” ~ ~ ~ When we arrived at the bar, Carrie’s coke was hardly touched. Emmett, his beer glass almost empty, had his battered cowboy hat pushed back on his head, the devil-may-care look restored. Carrie looked calm but pensive. “So, come on,” I said, “don’t keep us in suspense.” Emmett held his silence while smiling provocatively at Rob and me, then said: “What do you guys think?” Carrie thumped him on the arm: ”Emm-ETT, stop teasing!” Rob and I remained silent. Finally, Emmett said: “Fuck ’em! Let’s go for it. Next beer’s on me!” “By God, Ben, did ye hear that: next beer’s on him, get it down in the book.” Rob looked at me, then enquiringly at Carrie, as Emmett turned to call a waiter. Carrie shrugged as if to say what else d’you expect from a guy like Emmett? – and we knew exactly what she meant. ~ ~ ~ As the frontier guards approach us, I wait to greet them while Rob and Emmett go to help Carrie out of the Land-rover. The heat rises off the sand like molten glass, the only shade provided by a spindly thorn bush. We have a half-baked plan to divert the guard’s attention from her and Emmett’s nationality, but will it work? Rob and Emmett lay out a blanket under the thorn bush, then Emmett helps Carrie to stretch out in the shade. She’s not that ill, but we make a great show of it. “Elle est malade,” I say, “très malade!” She’s ill - the effect of these words on the guards is instantaneous, as if a magic wand has been waved. Their eyes immediately soften. Differences of colour, race, language, uniform, melt away as we all gather in shared sympathy around the prostrate body of Carrie.

Pushing Out the Boat 12


North to Algeria “C’est grave?” one of the guards asks. He is not much older than us, a conscript perhaps from one of the big white cities on the Mediterranean coast. This is a hell of a place to be posted! “Espérons que non!” I reply with an exaggerated frown; in fact, it’s not difficult to look worried under the circumstances. “Elle voudrait peut-être une petite tisane?” the senior guard asks. “Ça serait très gentile,” I answer and he motions the other to prepare an infusion. Struggling for words to say it must be lonely here, the best I can come up with is: “On est bien seul, ici.” “On pourrait dire ça! You could say that!” A nice bit of understatement. I begin to warm to the man but then he seems to remember his position again: “Vos passeports s’il vous plaît!” “Rob, Emmett, could you get the passports?” Rob returns from the Land-rover with the passports and hands them to the guard who takes them without looking. “Je reviendrai tout à l’heure.” The guard walks away behind low sand dunes to a small concrete lean-to half hidden from view. “What a God-awful place!” Emmett’s words echo all our thoughts. The junior guard returns with the tisane for Carrie. She sits up, while Emmett, uncharacteristically solicitous, sits behind her, back to back in the sand, offering something firm to lean on. We say nothing. It’s as if the desolation of the landscape has sucked the life out of us. Why is the guard taking so long over our passports? He must be radioing his superiors further north. If so, we’re doomed. When he returns, his expression is unreadable. I walk towards him without hope, my hand extended for the passports. He stops in front of me, staring straight into my eyes. For an eternity he holds this look. Then quite suddenly he smiles, his face softens again and with a crisp military gesture he says: “Bon voyage, messieurs dames.” He hands over all four passports, the two black British ones and the two red North American ones. My immediate and very un-English impulse is to hug him; but instead I take a huge, slow, deep breath and thank him politely as if this were the most routine transaction in the world. Sneaking a glance at the others I notice the almost palpable joy in their eyes.


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North to Algeria Long Rob is the first to move: “OK, ma loons, let’s hit the road.” Everything happens in slow-motion, as if gravity has increased: the helping of Carrie into the vehicle, the collection and folding of the rug, the sloth-like climb into the Land-rover, the closing of the doors, the starting of the engine, the gathering of momentum. With each passing moment, we await the inevitable cry of: “Arrêtez-vous!” But it never comes. We have made it into Algeria! Martin Walsh

grass fire channel country

Tim Winters

mixed media on canvas

Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Corner of Desolation and Waste Rundown like the toothless gums of an apple doll left under a tree last Christmas and missed until Easter, the Veteran’s Hall stands, a gray bunker of square brick, some of the windows blocked off, no sign of life and no cars outside…the men who come here to ruminate and reminisce are the old ones; only their baseball caps or the odd patch on a jacket gives you an idea of what they would talk about – if the words that populated their nightmares would come forth to the living in daylight and heal them. The only time I saw my grandfather without his walker was when he hobbled his way to the counter to get coffee, probably made during the very same war he was in, with powdered creamer that stayed stuck to the stick like unbrushed teeth. He’d smile and chat on the way, methodically turn the black to skin-colored beige with the focus of a neurosurgeon, then chat on the way back, to fall into his favorite chair, sip and think, until I helped him home for supper. I came most days for a while to visit. My grandfather was always in the same chair. I never had to scan the sadness or smell that peculiar smell of old for very long. And when we’d go home until tomorrow, we’d think without words that we both hoped the same men would be there, because to think any other way would be so horrible, you might as well be back in the war.

Tobi Cogswell


Pushing Out the Boat 12

What We Don’t Know About Jonah Each morning Jonah packs templates and paints in thoughtful order in the bed of his grandfather’s old truck, a daily memory of tough but loving – He drives at slow pace through neighborhoods where curbs were bruised by swollen waters and roughened sticks, house numbers no longer visible, not even in the broadest brush of sun. For 10, 15, maybe 20 dollars he will paint a numbered masterpiece on the naked curb for residents who forget his name the second they close the door, turning back to lovers or laundry, whatever people do in middle day when they’re at home. Jonah is an excellent draftsman. Born to be outdoors, he had learned a skill to serve him well, turning in the 4x6 cards filled with alphabets and numbers each Friday at school. He’d practiced his lettering week after week, the concentration blocking out his parents shouting in the kitchen, his little sister playing dolls by his feet to keep her from toddling into the war zone. Nothing as satisfying as a daily routine: flip through the mail, unload pockets of crumpled bills and order them in the same careful way he packs his paints, grab a $20, put his brushes to soak and head on down to Wiley’s place, a beer always waiting, a woman always curious and loving his paint splattered clothes, a real artist to make her feel beautiful after an ordinary day, to go outside with her, watch the neighbor’s lights coming on in the windows. Tobi Cogswell

Pushing Out the Boat 12


Stranded Perched on a stool sipping bitter macchiato picking out tomatoes from a pre-packed ciabbata, I think of what it’s like with you. Grime on the window clouds my view of a cerulean sky broken by ridge tiles and chimneys stacked to crenellate shadows on my day. And I think of what it’s like with you. Beyond ranks of railings treetops sway hustling leaves and branches through reels and dances spun in locked gardens to which I have no key. And I think of what it’s like with you. I fight teeming streets battling to reach the asylum of a work-pod in an open plan where computers glare and machinery screams drowning small talk, trampling thoughts, monitoring minutes with jealous precision till empty coats are buttoned and strangers stare as I bid goodnight and step out singly into the early darkness of electric light. And I think of what it’s like with you, when the last ferry has gone and the twilight yawns breathing golden pinks over slow-deepening blues; when peat smoke sweetens the salty air and lapping tides spume over whitened sand and I the wish I had the courage to come home. Mairi Wilson


Pushing Out the Boat 12


David Elder

Photographic image

Pushing Out the Boat 12


When The Coal Was Lost


he screech and skirl o the pipes sends a shiver through me still. Hearin them, the air all pinched and punched and shakin, I cannae help but smile, no matter the weight o the day or the troubles in my purse or the ache in my thin auld bones. The sound o the pipes taks me back to when I was just a lassie and Tommy Blaw was on the high street then, pipin excitement intae each new day. Tommy Blaw, dirt ’neath his bitten fingernails, silver spiders in his beard and skin like auld leather; I can see him now – in my head I can. He wore tartan trews that had seen better days, and a Glengarry bonnet that he passed round to a gathered crowd, collectin small bits o pennies for his pipin. Pennies enough there were at the end o his day, enough for beer and chips, and coloured ribbons that he sometimes handed out tae the bonniest lasses. My Ma kept a ribbon in a black lacquered jewellery box. The mechanism is broken now and when you open the lid there’s nae music – just a clickin sound, like a clock speeded up or stuck, and the little wooden ballet dancer, balanced on the toe o one foot, kicks the air with her other: small twitchin kicks as she waits for the music to start. The ribbon was red and so special my Ma kept it when other things were lost or gien away - kept it in a small drawer in that music box. Saturdays back then we went intae the town on the bus. There was my Ma and my Da. He cleaned up nice, my Da. Monday to Friday as black as black; but come Saturday mornin he was scrubbed as bright as a new penny. That’s what my Ma said. And he dressed smart, tae. Saturdays in the town my Da wore a shirt and tie, and a dark grey suit that made him look like he was someone; and his shoes carried a gloss-glassy shine you could see your face in. My Ma held ontae his arm, lettin everyone know he was hers or she was his. But when they stood in front o Tommy Blaw, she held him a little less tight, a little less close. I can see that now, lookin back, and I think that red ribbon was maybe somethin Tommy Blaw had gien my Ma for lookin bonnie. One Saturday there is, and I remember it above the rest. We were in the town the same, with Ma and me brushed up, Da and my aulder brother James – two years in it, just, ‘tween James and me, but he was already as tall as my Ma. The bus intae the high street was as full as it ever was, standin room only for the men and James. I got tae hold the paper ribbon o the ticket and a man aulder than my Da winked at me and showed his teeth in a grin that was somethin like a smile, only grimmer. The street was as busy as any other Saturday, and nae different at first. Ma queued for a wee bit fish at Markie’s, and eggs tae, and butter wrapped in waxed paper; Da stood with me and James outside. We were at the wrong end o the street, but already I could hear the pipes blawin and the hairs on the back o my neck stood on end and my thoughts were all butterfly light and skittery. I remember hoppin from one foot tae the other and pullin at my Da’s hand, wantin tae drag him away from Markie’s Fish Emporium tae see Tommy Blaw in his tartan trews and his Glengarry bonnet. That Saturday was a special day, one I had decided would be different from the rest, marked out. Not buyin sweets that day, I remember that. Nae cola cubes or sour plooms in a small penny poke, or strawberry pips in a paper cone, or pineapple chunks.


Pushing Out the Boat 12

When The Coal Was Lost “Here, lassie, go get yoursel some sweeties,” said my Da; and he dropped small change intae my palm, folded my fingers ower the money, and winked at me, like the man on the bus did, only my Da winkin was different. But I didnae buy sweets, not that Saturday. I skipped past Sinnie’s sweetie shop, not darin tae look at the jars in the window, knowin that if I did I might be tempted and change my mind. Skipped all the way tae the other end o the high street, I did, pulled there by the pipes playin and Tommy Blaw standin tall as any other man, and a crowd gatherin. Nae sweets for me that Saturday. Instead, I dropped two halfpennies intae his hat when he passed it round. Tommy Blaw smiled and winked at me then, his wink more like my Da’s than the auld man on the bus. And Tommy Blaw gifted me a piece o coal wrapped in newspaper; gifted every lass the same if they put somethin in his hat that day. “For luck,” he whispered. “A wee bit coal for Lady Luck.” My Da laughed when I showed him. Coal enough we had, free coal, delivered in sacks every fortnight by a man called Bobby. As black as the coal on his cart, that man, as black as his horse, tae. And we thought the horse was black from the hessian nosebag it wore and we thought the horse was aye eatin coal. My Da laughed when I showed him what Tommy Blaw had gien me. He worked in the pit, my Da, so a wee bit coal was nothin tae him. But I kept that coal by me for years, wrapped in the torn scrap o newsprint, believin it special, expectin that Lady Luck was real and would call one day and ask for what was hers. Tommy Blaw, by the fountain all Saturday morning: I can see him still, one foot tappin, puff-ball cheeks like polished apples and his fingers fast as fizz, his pipes makin the whole street want to dance. That’s what I remember. A brown bottle o Dalkeith ale was beside him, and the sun makin shadows creep behind Tommy as he played. And he gied my Ma a bit o ribbon and me a wee bit o coal. It was the same man was seen drunk later in the day, down by the railway track, throwin stanes at the engines as they passed till the drivers on the trains were sick o his insults and they threw lumps o coal at the tramp in tartan trews standin alone in a field – enough coal tae warm the stretch o his night and some left over for luck. My Da it was who told that story. He was a wee bit drunk himself when he told it, and he laughed as loud as pipes blawin, and my Ma said that Tommy Blaw wasnae as green as he was cabbage lookin. I ken what that means now. Then came a day when times were hard and harder, and my Da was off his work though he wasnae sick. Everybody’s Da was the same in our street. And the pit wheel wasnae turnin, I remember that. It was strangely quiet, like time had stopped and the music stopped tae, at least in our house it did. My Ma at the sink or the cooker and nae a song in her mouth anymore and nae a dance in her feet. Bad times they were.

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When The Coal Was Lost Clean as Saturdays my Da looked, every day; his vest white as clouds though his face was set dark and nae winks or smiles for James or for me. James was auld enough then; he stood on street corners smokin hand-rolled cigarettes as thin as a straw and he spat in the road and swore against the day, swore against all thae days. And just as suddenly James didnae come with us on the bus intae town, my Da neither. The buses were only half full and nae auld men winkin or grinnin at small girls in Saturday dresses, and the snatch-tear o a bus ticket didnae feel any more like a ribbon. There was nae queuin for fish and eggs and butter at Markies; we were there for cheaper cuts o meat, and beef-drippin for our bread; but Tommy Blaw liftin the hairs on the back o my neck still with his playin, and my Ma let go o my hand when we were watchin him. And those bad days grew intae somethin more, maybe weeks and maybe months; and Black Bobby didnae come round with his black horse, not ever again, and it is only now that I miss him and think o not havin seen him again. Nae bits o pennies either for sweeties, that I remember, and nae bits o pennies for Tommy Blaw, not from me and not from anyone when he passed round his hat. And the coal trains stood silent in the yards, not a steamy breath in any o them, as still as trains in an auld black and white photograph, and just as quiet. Day sat heavy upon day; and with my Da under my Ma’s feet, we were best away from the house and the hard words there. All the kids in my street the same, creepin quiet from place tae place, and cryin for the smallest hurt, that is what it was then. I saw a dog once, whipped by a man deep in his drink, and that dog all cower and fright with its tail down and its head hung low, and it sat under a lamp-post outside the pub waitin for that same man; that’s what the kids in our street were like, that’s how it seemed to me. Then the darkest day o all, and it is a surprise tae me now that I do not know the month or the number or even the day. It was my brother, James, that found him. James was with a lass called Alice. ‘Winchin’ my ma called it, and they were out walkin down by the railway. It was there that James found Tommy Blaw under the bridge where he slept. Looked like he was sleepin then, though there wasnae a blaw left in him, and frost rimed his beard till the sun fell late on him; and the bag o his pipes lay limp like a rabbit that has been shot or its neck broke. James took me tae see. All the kids in our ken he took, and we stood in a ring around Tommy Blaw and his dead pipes, and there were nae words spoken. Maybe I remember it wrong. Maybe I remember it as it should be, heads bowed and a silence that was not easily broken, like standin in church and waitin for the minister’s amen. It was the end o somethin that day. I don’t know if we knew that then. The pit never opened again and the stuck-stopped pit wheel never turned more, and it got so as my Ma couldnae stay with my Da, not for long or for ever. Maybe that’s when the music box got broke. We moved intae a smaller place, my Ma and me and James, a place where the walls were thin as paper and everythin was electric, even the fire. James soon got as big as my Da and found a job in a brush factory. ‘A new broom sweeps clean,’ my Ma said. And the time slipped away, as time does, speedin up it seems, like clocks can go faster when you are auld. My Ma’s gone now and my Da lies aside her in the ground, not close enough they can touch but somewhere near.


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When The Coal Was Lost And I wear Tommy Blaw’s red ribbon in my hair some days when I am alone in my room, and I think back tae when the buses were full and I was just a lassie spendin the bits o pennies I had on sweeties, except for that one Saturday. It was years on years before I heard the sound o the pipes again, other than on the radio or the television. And when I did hear them at last, a whole band of them in the high street, and the chitter of drums and the tappin o feet, I couldnae help it – I felt a thrill run through me. Like bein young again and wantin tae dance but knowin my auld bones are ower thin for that now. And each time since it is the same: I feel the hairs stand up on the back o my neck like before, even though I am grey and aulder now than Tommy Blaw ever was – Tommy with his wink and his smile and his Glengarry bonnet set high and at a cheery tilt, and a red ribbon for my bonnie Ma and a wee bit coal for me and for luck. I ask my brother James, on days when I see him, about Lady Luck’s bit o coal and where it might be. He says he disnae ken what I’m talkin about, and I search the drawers in my house and all the cupboards and the dark spaces beneath things. But I do not know where it has gone.

Douglas Bruton

Cabinet 1

Jitka Zabkova

installation Pushing Out the Boat 12


Soda Bottles

Headlights carve a tunnel through night on a highway edged with pines. My cousin’s throat is scratchy as she begins disclosure. A neighbor calls, confronting surgery, eases into confession. I am left to rebut eulogies, but I am sworn to secrecy. One last slice of pizza curls in congealed grease, rum bottle is down five fingers, and my friend’s words come in a rush.

I am swollen with secrets. A repository. Lock box. Seeking respite, I return to the coast, room beneath the eaves, a father who allows both space and time. Belly flat against the pier, I watch schools of silver fry roil water with dartings until I cannot tell whether fish or sunlight dance its surface. Around the piling slips a tiny gar - three inches long, nearly transparent; periwinkles watch, eyes of god, from reeds along shore. I stumble on a case of bottles in the shed, lemon soda I used to buy for a nickel from the iced chest in Bug’s store. Has Dad saved them for me? For this occasion? He offers that quizzical smile he’s given since I went away to college, became strange. On the pier I write out nameless secrets, fold and fit them into bottles as bands of wet rock rise from quiet, ebbing tide. I select a bottle, arc it far across the rippled surface. It lands with a satisfying splat, bursts to the surface in a glittering corona of sequins. One by one, the secrets float away. Ann Howells


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Last Night Supper – Mevagissey Bags packed, kitchen swept, minds already on the way home, eyes on the clock, just time to catch the quayside hut if we hurry. She’s in blue overalls, stained, cleaning up, still willing to stop and say the names of flat silver-sided fish among the ice. This dull brown one is Megrim Sole, nice with scallops and a bit of samphire. A flash in the pan, a shake, a salty whiff, sweet and steaming, the creamy sea in my mouth, dissolving into silk notes. We drive away, lose the high sided lanes on the motorway, head inexorably north. A sore gap between memory and reality bridged by the shimmering fish. Vivien Jones

SeaLion, SunRise

K Castle-Anderson

Japanese Woodcut on Japanese Paper

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The Hypermuckin o Zjordan-344’s iByre

K “

en fit a fun in the Wastren Gairden iss mornin, m’liddy?”

Flechy Hinnersen the gairdner pokett ees lang weezli scabbipatchy supernova-reedint neb1 throwe the scullery intrance, stannin obsequious-kine on the stewy plunks o the rale-wid-effeck-fleert fleer o th lobby, far ees impresshin o hingin-luggitniss2 wis scarcely mitigatit be the licht reflectin aff the satin-smooth smeary fillim o rat’s pish3 on the skirtin-boord anent ees tackety beets. “Michty naa. Fit wizzt?” sez she, ay, her at wis the Liddy Fion-Toner wifie o the muckle hoose at ae en o the wee glen, er strushle hair rasslin ti scape awaa oot fae aneth er ethnic hoose-kep. “Seems lik sum kinna brass effert, an aal cookin skillet or mebbe a Roman hellmet or a journeymin’s chunty, a jist canna bi shuer. A wis nivver affa gweed at Archaeolledgy at the skweel.” Coorse, aabiddy in Strathscree kint fine Flechy Hinnersen wis a helluva duffer at cid hardly decline a Seivinteenth Diclinshin noon4 fae the twinty-saxt cintury buddy a iNglish post-post-post-modrin litteryature, at hid preceedit iDoric as the Lingua Frunky or yunivirsal wye o spikkin afore crashin in glitterin wee dysdiadokokinetic bittikies fae a combinashen o dammt feel uptext-spikkery complicatitniss an ootricht celeb-stylistic hubrisstly presumshen, nor widee a been able ti name aa the by-names an bye-wirdies at wis conferrit on the Faemuss Furrst Furrst Meenister Alec clypit The Stoot be a gratefu naeshen efter ees heroic triple trip an roll doon the Moond in Embrughville’s Fair Civitas chasin a winn-blaan buttert rowie ae day, ay yon day, at indipindince wis declairt for The Broch, nae bit fit onnybiddy at wis peyin attinshin hidda aye kint The Broch hid been hellva indipindint fra helfa lang time. “A weel a wyte”, rejint Liddy Fion-Toner, pitten doon er sonic spurtle wi a quantumjudderrin dunt on i fine antique plastic kitchen table far shi wis makken a great dose o traditional iScones, ken yon eens at’s si interactive ye cin hardly ett’m fer witin politely ur they stop spikkin. “At bittie o the gairden his aye been a placie nae ti gyang tull efter semi-dark, fan the northrin lichts are flickerin rarely throwe the wireliss-active5 caesium haar loomin loominussly doon fae the Jaggy Crags o Clocherbilly, an the Archaeopterix® is tryin oot ees latest TalonzPro Skreich-anSwoop Update in the mirk. Onnywye, sees a lookie at iss artyfakktie at yiv funn. Hivvyit onnyi?”6 “Naa, hing on a meenit. Ma aal tyke’s teen a hud o’t an’s ruggitit awaa ower the riggs an inti the midden.” “Inti the midden? Gyaad sake. Weel weel, bit a’ll pit on ma wellies an wi’ll sik oot the pair o thim.”


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The Hypermuckin o Zjordan-344’s iByre Sae aff thi wint, twa buddys o the Buchan Di-Aspro, the een o em immersed in fit ye caa the hich cultyure o wir age, an the tither fair drookit wi the nyammy swite o wark. Throwidder thi mitha been, bit michty thi werna lackin in aggravatin smeddom an couthy blether-readiness nor ony o them comestibles an currencies that folkies likes ti hae aboot em fan thir crossin a dessert, like fit happens a lot nooadays, ti hud awa ony fit-thi-mith-caa longeurs.7 Weel weel an, gyan throwe thi bonny floory girssy bitties, as green’s a dyke-sider’s clocher, Flechy Hinnersen pintit oot a fyowe o the sally-aunt feetyers, as e caad em. “See at noo, yer Liddyship, errs a canty curnie a Snap Druggons, mine yer finngers tho, thir GM8 an taks life a bittie literal. “O ay, an watch oot fur the myaavs as weel, cis as the aal baard says, ‘...quhat lik untae en Great Meganser flichths abbeen us aa, jist a-waitin fer ane oppertunioty furti poonce ons whiles sheighaghtain frequent doon skooriform upon wir heids lik Bryllcreigchm from Heaghveinn.’ 9 “… an airs Lily o the Glenny, hoorirondy quinie in a cuttie fite sark an nae muckle idder, aye an wi er nyakkit keester stickin oot ahinner. Wir peeony rosies is deein weel iss ear tee, cis ers nae neen horny gollachs ur black spot been aroon seen the backgroon radiashen livils wint aa ti buggery yon time.” Liddy Fion-Toner admir’t aa iss, cis shi wis gey keen on bonnie floories, tho like aabidy noo shi wis keener on stuff yikid growe ti ett or clart ower fine peeces or stir inti yer brose. “Weel weel, Mester Hinnersen,” shi says, “at’s affa fine, bit wi’ll mebbe jist tikka danner doon ti thi glesshoose ivenoo an intervieow the tatties an blackcurrans an at on the wye ti thi midden. Noo watch oot fan wir crossin thi rope briggie ower the septic tunk, wi dinna wunt ony bigecks thereaboots like thi schemozzle Unty Mary hid last time shi wis roon ti seez fin a wis affa nae weel wi the yalla jandees10, mine? Come ti think o’t, hinna seener since. Toonser that sh’is, cudna tell er yalla Skellach11 fae er yalla Tansy.” 12 Syne the twa o’m hid a spell engagin at thi labbiolympics, faar if ye’re efter fit the dog his, ye man exert yersel pentathlonically be sprintin efterim across thi midden, loupin the dry-steen dyke, hurdlin ower a baa-less flock o sheep grazin in a State o Catatonia, passin the parcel wi thi postie’s shult Wells-Farragoin up thi ferm road, gulderin eeslessly lik a glaiket gype at Flechy’s ultricket tyke an deein a hanbrake Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Hypermuckin o Zjordan-344’s iByre turn on ae fit wi a muckle slidy gelatinous manky sklyte ower a stirk’s fite-skoory toldie until, wi the crood roarin like a coo wi the coalick, tatties ower the side an abiddy in the dubs, ye kin grab the kich-smeared preshiouse objick fae the slaverin gnashers o thi capricious canine, doon on yer knees an raisin it upti yer mou ti geet a kiss like Jessieca Ennis at the hepatitisthon... “Haud on noo, haud on noo, Liddy Fion, nae freely sae forcey!” loodly interpostulatit Flechy Hinnersen the gairdner. Back in thi scullery, Liddy Fion-Toner took a hud o the intirmettintly glowin metal thingie be the lugs an dumpit it inti the sink alang wi yisterdi’s denner-time an flycuppie desshes, gient it a bit o a sweel roon ur the warst o the sharny dubs wis aff o’t. Syne they baith hid a lang look, til shi says, “Himph, it dis look mair like a hell-met than a ashet. Mebbe Aal Greek Pro or Viking Raider Lite. An look, a wee inscription. Seez ower ma glesses til a see fit it says. Hmmm, hmm… NEMO ME IMPUNE LUNESSIT. Fa Daurs Moon at Moi, looks like. An here’s anidder een, in Smaa Aal Wifiscript: Hic Hattius knittifactus est in Heronis Garagio Sardiniae. At mith be, ‘Knitted oot o recycled sardine cans be a gadgie wi a lang snoot’. Or mebbe, ‘Is bunnet wis mannyfactered in Hero’s garage in Sardinia’. “Michty, Flechy, fit wiv got here’s the lang-tint Sardinian Bunnet o Zjordan-344 fae NeoPtsiligi, a redd aboot at ae time in the P&J! Wyte a fyllie noo, a’ll dryt aff wi iss dishcloot, an wull see fou it fitsma.” An wi at, Liddy Fion-Toner keest er hoose kep on i fleer an clappit the Sardinian Bunnet on er frosty pow. An michtybehere, the hale sit-you-ashen changit in a twinklin o an ee! Kis wi a tinglin o the broo an a mist afore er een, shi began seein unca veezhuns, nae mowze thingies fae ither times an ither places, ither yunyversies izweel. A coorse, Flechy Hinnersen cid see er clear eneuch, bit shi wis oot o sicht o hersel an tint aathegither, mutterin aa kinna jummlt dottlinesses. Efter a lang filie, he cid stann nae mair an gid the Sardinian Bunnet a muckle rug twathree times. Bit it wis nae eese, th’infernal machinie wis stuckn on er heid as fast’s a rotten neep aneth an aal soo snorin in a greip, an e cudna dee mair nor shoogle it a bittie. The gairdner nippit oot ti the backie for ees irin pinch at hid been roostin in e dubs ivver since the summer afore last, an syne pit ae en o’t aneth the rim o the hellmet’s oxyputt an wi a great grumph an whazle - lever’t it aff er heid. Aweel, bit noo there wis a flash an a grummle o thunner, wi a clood a smoke like a fermer’s ful vitle-capassity Bogie Roll exhellashen, as tho Aal Nick imsel hid made een o ees frequent appearances in them pairts ti brak a helloa lot a win.


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The Hypermuckin o Zjordan-344’s iByre Bit o the Sardinian Bunnet an Liddy Fion-Toner there wis nivver seen hide nor hair nor fuskers nor mouwzer, nae a sign, na, na, nor a wirdy heard fae thim fae that day ti this throwe aa the Buchan’n’Strathbogie space-time continuhum. At’s fat Flechy Hinnersen said onnywye, an he nivver changit ees story throwe aa the wiks o watter-boordin at he partissy-pettet in efter at the Lodge Walk Custumier Inquiries Cinter. Donnie Ross Fit-noties13 1.

Supernova-reedint neb: Folkies o the Twinty-acht Cintery wis affa sair made wi Comic Rays fae supernovæ at birsled ther baldy heids an the pints o ther nebs an lugs fan they wis oot a lot.


Hingin-luggit: A terim dirivit fae nowt, lik ye mith say a stirk wis in the neuk o a park, a bittie doon in the mou kine an hingin-luggit wi ixistintial ungst.


Rat’s pish: Cyber-rottans o the Twinty-Acht Cintery cid easy gie ye an affa dose o the yalla jandies (qv).


Seiventeenth Diclinshin Noons: Fit wie wid ye need a fit-notie aboot iss?


Wireliss-active: Ken, like radio-active, ye feel.


Hivvyit onnyi? Is at it in yer pooch, or fitt? A common variant cideezi be Hivvyitt onnyyi?, bit the pronoonciashen’s affa similliar.


Longeurs: A bittie like a Frinch pair o long-johns, bit mair borin.


GM: Gini’i’klly Malageroosed.


A reference ti the weell-kint Ejsbjerg Saga. The rillevent sekshen o’t gings: CoaghCoagh the UrChioaghoaghlaiathaidh Laibraidhghoughr, the mythic Sun-Dog of the West, only the golden fleece of the mighty Western Ram, seven times spun by virgins and conveyed in the Bronze-wheeled Chariot of the Volks will he wear next to his sacred pelt that has been three-and-twenty times combed and brushed betwixt sunrise and sunset by Oncliach Dumnaillaigh and that before a supper consisting of sixty-seven new lambs, three oxen and an irritating horse-and-wifie-rider, all eaten to the sound of the ancient songs in iambic pentameter sung by virgins etc etc accompanied on the Iron-Framed Moothie of Ould in B Flat Minor. Syne saeth Oncliach Dumnaillaigh until CoaghCoagh the Ur-Chioaghoaghlaiathaidh Laibraidhghoughr, “Nowe that alle have dronken thir fill and gorged until naemair mith doon gullet be stappit for feare of stamakruptcie, nowe say I lat us turn our thoughoughts til the Ould Enemy quhat lik untae en Great Meganser flichths abbeen us aa, jist a-waitin fer ane oppertunioty furti poonce ons whiles sheighaghtain frequent doon skooriform upon wir heids like Brylcreigchm from Heaghveinn.” “Pass the pigeonios en croute,” wurfléd CoaghCoagh, “a wedge or twain of widgeon, tranche-du-roi de fromage sauvage de France wellwarmed in a sote wench’s cleavauge and she from Noermændy hersel and y-cleped Kyleagh, a butcher’s brace of saucissons atween hir lilywhite ski-thick thighs for good measure”. Such were the wise words iambically integrated into articulate strophic speech by the practiced mou of CoaghCoagh the wise, the Ur-Chioaghoaghlaiathaidh Laibraidhghoughr and Mythic Sun-Dog of the Vest.

10. The yalla jandees: Anither ixumple o a plurial singilar, same is porridge is them and brose is them tee.

Sae’s sowens. Troosers is them, bit a kilt is yon kine. Coorse, fowkies in Buchan disna weer the kilt (a singilar plurial), fit wye widwi, wi the win comin affa the watter or doon fae Mormond brae, een or tither freezin yer thingmies (singilar or plurial) aa ti fityecaat?

11. Skellach: A roch yalla flooer, a wee bittie like a Tansy. 12. Tansy: A roch yalla flooer, a wee bittie like Skellach. 13. There’s nay en’ ti iss kinna thing, izzer? (Vide inf14) 14. Th’En.

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The Naked Present

Autumn in the countryside, half past five, already dark. I’ve come to my childhood place by chance, looking for a bunch of keys I need from my old uncle. Here by the house of my first summers, deckchairs under the garden grapes by the water pump, caressing the grass, parents, grandparents, in the memory the peaceful lasting of a luminous dusk. There a vineyard where later, in the dark, I smoked my first cigarette, initiated to the rite by an older cousin and his friends. In the vineyard, in the warm dark, brushing the branches, scraping the bark I can still see the orange dots of the cigarettes, a new sky watching and unveiling its heart. It’s a field now, a stretch of clods and furrows that vineyard and the house is dark and silent, the garden a square shadow in the glimmer of the distant road, all the shutters closed except one with a feebly blue filtering through the curtains behind the window. This, now, all there is, time has passed, it’s not bad, just bare, almost blank, with up above, anyway, the stars. Before time passed here in this garden almost half a century ago I was a boy, a gaze spacing in sky and grass hiding a smile of forwardness, eagerly expecting the unknown. Now I am in the unknown that is staring and asking for nothing. Or maybe, in its silence only asking for a purity of intent. The acceptance of a wait, without hoping and without fretting, the gesture of standing steady and straight. In the damp autumn grass, in the garden filled with nothing, in the mute prayer of the naked present. Davide Trame


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Writing the Testament Impeccable language the layer’s sitting in front, helping me with all that’s necessary to be simple, precise, unequivocal. Other words almost amusingly flash in my mind while I write: ‘The legal clarity of the sky’. Sunlight is filtering through the white curtains and spreading on the spacious thick oak table and in the lawyer’s gaze, a gorgeous woman by the way, who is concentrated on my paper, dictating me, translating actually my wishes into legality. Translating, transmuting I dare say words into the unknown, into the not yet, it’s funny how we are cordially smiling and laughing in this office, with our looks projected beyond the body. And it’s funny that I feel, while cruising through the impalpable, that something is being accomplished, sailing to a great full stop. I have always loved my own writing, its legibility, its sliding on the paper effortlessly, its weightlessness out of the body’s weight. I have almost finished now: I am writing ‘In faith’ and my signature. A clear feather cast into swarming sunlight.

digital photogrpahy art Beate Allerton

Davide Trame Pushing Out the Boat 12


The Wordsmith take a word from the shelf turn it over feel the heft of it stop let’s start that again put it back where you found it and let’s think we need something lighter, something more subtle no… no… no… not quite stop, go back yes, what’s that one up there? no, the one next to it that’s it, could you bring it down? ahh yes, it’s looking good could I just...? thank you. yes, we might have something here bring it to the bench and let’s have a proper look yes, yes, yes! I think you’ve got it. now we need to assemble all the words into a set take your time and make sure there are no gaps. give the set a little tap and again you hear that? it’s ready now slide the set into the furnace good, good open up all the vents perfect now climb in yourself don’t hesitate – trust me that’s it get right in let it all burn through we’re nearly there so remember what I said.


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The Wordsmith you’ve gone I can’t help you now but I know you can hear me soon I’ll take my pen and from these remnants, still warm, I’ll let you flow your essence in ink in these words.

Iain Blair-Brown


David Pettigrew

Multi Media Pushing Out the Boat 12


Ingram Street You don’t see many sheep in the Merchant City, I told him, thinking that in fact you do.

The Golden Tree

He was pulling strands of tangled fibre from his inside pocket and laying them in lines on the counter.

Moongirls The girl in the flat downstairs likes to bathe in moonwater. She captures the moon’s monthly full reflection in a bowl of water left overnight on the balcony, bottles it and adds a few drops to her bath each morning. There’s a girl in the block across the close prefers her moonbath live. Once a month she hauls a tub across the drying green and positions it to catch the moon. Faces gather at dark windows, keen to glimpse the full sparkle of her silver skin. But the girl I go to see every month lives in a shrouded basement, won’t go out in the moonlight and keeps her bathing habits private. Sometimes I think there’s a moon that shines full and deep inside her but her skin is thick as estuary fog and the gleam is lost within. Haworth Hodgkinson


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digital art photography Beate Allerton

Crows The crows are back. Two of them and they look like your eyes, opaque and dry. Charcoal in flight. You must have sent them, avatars of words you refuse to say, words that have morphed into smoke-filled cries. Sound echoing through black feathers. It is always the same. Me, watching for your eyes.

An Accident He was headed for the middle of the street. I saw it before he stepped off the curb, his limbs hollow as a bird’s. The sun hit his back as the car would two seconds later, the light shimmering like water through his body. Valentina Cano

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Friday Night

Rapunzel Wizard

Lost Afternoon “Ten t’six, b’fuck.” William Ferguson


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Remembering The twenty-fifth annual reunion came and went, dinner menus were passed around for all to sign. Memories - good and bad - were shared by ‘Anyone’, and a toast was made to absent friends by Jimmy Lee. On the way home a sudden blast from the quarry nearby, and Alf fell to ground trembling, remembering.

David Elder

Shaven from Glithno Road

Iain Burt

Oil Pushing Out the Boat 12


Gold Gold gets all bashed up if you wear it on your finger. It gets cut and dented because it’s malleable and warm, and like a body it shows its character only after several years of what might be considered bad decisions. How much of a wedding ring gets rubbed away while doing the dishes or the gardening? How much is sloughed off along with skin cells? Is there gold in the dust of my house? I wonder. My grandmother’s ring was worn smooth and thin. When it broke she cried her eyes out: not because it reminded her of her husband, but because it had belonged to her mother. The gold was indifferent to the man she married, and to the man her mother had married. Nor had it any loyalty to the women who wore it. It was intent only on escaping, atom by atom, back into the earth. Why then wear something so feckless? Why not wear titanium? One might say, why bother living? Why bother to disintegrate, to age? Who really wants no change, no harm done? My grandmother died when we repaired her ring. When she saw how unmarked and new it was, she saw decades wiped away; she saw nullity in the perfect roundness of the ring. She wouldn’t put it on. She clutched her ring finger protectively, and shrank away from the idea of something so soulless and unspoiled. She curled up in bed and howled at the loss. She said she’d rather the ring was still broken. When she died I saw all the pits and dents of her face, and when we buried her she returned to the ground, fleeing with the gold. Ariadne Cass-Maran


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Anna Ondicova Charcoal on paper

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Contributor Information Jeffrey Alfier has work forthcoming in Louisville Review and Windsor Review. He is the author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press, 2013), and publisher of San Pedro River Review. Beate Allerton is a digital art/photographer and writer. She loves capturing the unnoticed objects in familiar territory, bringing new perspectives to a picture, as well as creating new images. Facebook: Beate Allerton Art Joy Ardy lives in rural Herefordshire, where she spends too much time looking after her newts and toads and not enough time writing. Eleanor Leonne Bennett, age 17, is an internationally award winning photographer and visual artist. [See the list of her achievements on our Contents pages]. Samuel Best is a Glasgow-based writer and also runs Octavius, a literary magazine for students studying in Scotland. He tweets at @spbbest and has more stories available at samuelbest.weebly.com Natalya Brentnall is a creative 13-year-old girl, living in the friendly village of Alford. She is a bright and happy S3 pupil, who is currently attending Alford Academy. Iain Blair-Brown was born in Canada and worked as an ecologist in England. He moved to Scotland in 1993 and now teaches English. He enjoys writing, learning languages and growing rare plants. Douglas Bruton, a graduate of Aberdeen University from way back, is surprised when he finds stories in his pockets. He polishes them, till they shine; then he gives them away. Iain Burt, 1945 Kirkcaldy>Edinburgh>Kincardineshire. After doing graphics and photography for years, I’m now indulgently doing wee paintings with nice odorous oil colour. What a relief! Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. K Castle-Anderson is an Aberdeen artist and printmaker. She is drawn to processes which allow for a lack of control and certain unpredictability, building layers using abstraction, shape and line. Ariadne Cass-Maran is a Fife-based Australian. She is a director of Graphic Scotland, and a founding member of Edinburgh spoken word group Illicit Ink. Tobi Cogswell is a three-time Pushcart nominee and Best of the Net nominee. Her latest chapbook is Lit Up, (Kindred Spirit Press). She co-edits the San Pedro River Review (www.sprreview.com).


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Malcolm Cowie, age 11, is a young poetry writer who enjoys using his imagination and reading lots of books. This isn’t the fist time he has entered a poem. Ian Crockatt is a widely published poet and translator. He is currently working on a PhD at the University of Aberdeen focusing on the translation of Old Norse court poetry. Stephen Devereux is a poet, essayist and short story writer. He grew up near the Suffolk coast and now lives and works in the North West of England. Hilary Duncan graduated from Gray’s in 2009, and makes ceramics inspired by our lives connecting with our landscape. Her sharing vessels describe spontaneous moments in a narrative which triggers conversation. David Elder is widely published as a poet and has also co-authored a biography about Antarctic explorer Edward Wilson (www.reardon.co.uk). As a photographer he contributed to Glenesk: collected poems of John Angus. William (Bill) Ferguson stays in Orkney. Eleanor Fordyce’s poems and short stories are often triggered by her love of eavesdropping. The acquisition of a bus pass has presented exciting new opportunities to lug into life nationwide. Alison Green was brought up in Aberdeen, spending her holidays in the North-East countryside, and every time she starts to write, a Doric wifie inside her rises up and spiks... Haworth Hodgkinson is a poet, playwright, composer and improvising musician, exploring the borderlands where theatre, sound, words, dance and image meet to survey their common ground. More at www.haworthhodgkinson.co.uk Ann Howells has edited Dallas Poets Community’s journal, Illya’s Honey, for 14 years. This year, she is taking it electronic: www.Illya’sHoney.com. Her work appears in university and small press journals. Vivien Jones has spent much of 2013 performing early music for her dramatised reading ‘Red Rose - White Rose’, the women’s tale, in memory of James lV. Janice Keir writes mainly in traditional poetry forms but occasionally ventures into free verse. She also writes dark ‘twist in the tale’ flash fiction. Alexander Lang lives the vital part of his life in his head - a virtual place neither here nor there until his screen and his mind go blank and the real returns. Beth McDonough studied Silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, and works in mixed media. An MLitt student at Dundee University, she finds poems when walking, foraging & swimming.

Contributor Information Olivia McMahon lives in Aberdeen. At the moment she is working on a collection of poems about paintings - soon to be published. She also writes novels about love, language, hairdressing and remorse. Andrew McCallum lives and works in Scotland’s Southlands. He writes in both Scots and English, and has recently completed a translation into Scots of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Sarah Macmillan-Taylor lives and works in Britain’s rural Northwest. Taylor exhibits worldwide, with solo shows in the UK, USA and Japan. Statements and more work available at www.augengallery.com/Artists/taylor Anna Ondicova is a student of Painting at Gray’s School of Art. Her biggest inspiration is her own experience and the simple aspects of everyday life. Stephen Pacitti, an Aberdonian now living in Glasgow, lectured for many years in Taiwan. His Doric short stories have appeared in POTB, but he here gives a taste of an English ‘novel in progress’. David Pettigrew, born Meikle Wartle, Aberdeenshire. Post Graduate of Gray’s. Full-time artist who paints, paints, paints and paints! Recent work uses digital imagery. Lives at Old Portlethen Village. See www.masterpieceartstudio.com Jane Pettigrew, born Aberdeen. Post Graduate of Gray’s School of Art. Full-time artist influenced by forty years of Italian travel and by the NE environment. Lives at Old Portlethen Village. See www.masterpieceartstudio.com

Ally Taylor, age 13, is a student at Alford Academy. Judith Taylor comes from Strathmore and lives in Aberdeen. Her work has been published in magazines and in two pamphlet collections: Earthlight (Koo Press) and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press). Pauline Thomas is well known for her bold, powerful and thought-provoking art. Her work can be found in private and public collections throughout the UK, Europe, USA and Dubai. Betty Tindall grew up in Perthshire but now lives in Dumfries. Writing often in Scots, her work has won prizes and has appeared in anthologies and many poetry journals. Davide Trame is an Italian teacher of English living in Venice. His poems started appearing in magazines in 1999. His poetry collection Make It Last was published in January 2013 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. Hilary de Vries is an artist and composer. She works outside, letting the surrounding landscape influence her art. Her main mediums are pastel and watercolour. See more at www.hilarydevries.com Martin Walsh, still living in Aberdeen, still writing (but not enough). Absolutely delighted to be in this Issue of POTB. Jeff van Weereld (born 1942 in the Netherlands) has been living in Scotland since 1984. He skillfully combines materials with different characteristics and surface structures into 2D and 3D sculptures.

Heather Reid lives near Perth. She writes for adults and children and is currently chair of Soutar Writers. More about Heather at www.soutarwriters.co.uk/heatherreid

Sarah Whiteside is privileged to be Writer in Residence at Roxburghe House in Aberdeen. She is a graduate of the St Andrews writing programme. ‘To the Mountains’ is her first story to be published.

Donnie Ross’s experimental novel, !Leonardo Mind for Modern Times, is peculiarly popular world-wide. Even more surprisingly, he sold a painting at the RSW Spring Exhibition in Edinburgh this year.

Louise Wilford, based in South Yorkshire, has had around 50 poems published in magazines including Agenda, Iota and The Stinging Fly. She was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition in 2013.

Neil Russell has lived in rural Aberdeenshire for more than 30 years. Primarily a visual artist, his work at present is mostly concerned with words and texts: deconstructing, manipulating, re-contextualising.

Mairi Wilson’s work has appeared in publications such as Gutter and The Eildon Tree, on radio, online, and in performance at Edinburgh and other festivals. She lives in Ullapool.

Meggie Seymour is 17 and lives in Banchory. She studied at her local academy but shortly will be attending Dundee, to study history. She hopes you enjoy ‘The Poet’.

Tim Winters was born in London and moved to Australia aged 16. He has developed a strong visual affinity with the Australian landscape which has resulted in many paintings and prints.

Linda Smith writes short stories and a smattering of poetry, often in the Doric. When she’s not writing, her head is usually buried in a book.

Rapunzel Wizard is a performance poet, writer, and singer. He refuses to get a proper job or a haircut, but he has got a website - www.rapunzelwizard.co.uk

Rob McClure Smith has published fiction in Chapman, Gutter, Barcelona Review, Manchester Review and Gettysburg Review. He has been a winner of the Scotsman Orange Short Story Award.

Jitka Zabkova studies at RGU Aberdeen.

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PUSHING OUT THE BOAT - Issue 12 The Production Team for Issue 12: Editor Sheila Reid Treasurer Martin Walsh (to June 2013), Mandy Briggs Coordinator/Acting Sec’y Freda Hasler Sales Manaager Martin Walsh Consulting Editor Graeme Roberts Communications Judith Taylor [Convenor] to June 2013, Richie Brown, Aenea Reid Art Panel Tracey Caldwell, Stuart Johnston, David McCracken [Convened by Freda Hasler] Poetry Panel Bernard Briggs [Convenor], Georgia Brooker, EE Chandler Prose Panel Gillian Philip, Ewan Scott, John Aberdein [Guest], [Convened by Martin Walsh] Scots/Doric Editor Derrick McClure Copy Editors Freda Hasler [Convenor], Moira Brown, Sheila Reid, Sarah Thompson Covers Dolleen McLennan Design & Layout Sue Simpson, Freda Hasler, Dolleen McLennan Website Designer Andy Moore Angus Representative Eleanor Fordyce Pushing Out the Boat is entirely managed and produced by this dedicated team of volunteers, with welcome funding support from Aberdeen City Council. We have valued partnerships: North East Open Studios [NEOS] which advertises us in their widely distributed catalogue and whose members contribute to and sell copies of the magazine in their galleries; and Grampian Hospitals Art Trust [GHAT], which shares our beliefs in the benefits of art and literature. Our thanks go to the Phoenix Community at Newton Dee, Bieldside for providing a venue for the Launch of this Issue 12; and for the continuing support of PVA and SMART in Aberdeen.

Email: info@pushingouttheboat.co.uk Post: Pushing Out the Boat, c/o 23 Ferryhill Place, Aberdeen, AB11 7SE Printer : Stephens and George Copyright @ Pushing Out the Boat (POTB) 2013: the contents may not be used or reproduced without crediting POTB and the author/artist; any commercial re-use or reproduction of a contribution requires prior permission from the editor’s representative and the particular contributor.


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PUSHING OUT THE BOAT - Outlets Copies of the magazine can be ordered via our email/postal address price £6 per copy plus post/packing. Or purchased from our regular outlets, whose continued support we gratefully acknowledge. These include: Aberdeen Art Gallery Aberdeen Central Library Aberdeenshire Main Libraries Alford Heritage Centre, Alford Bank Street Gallery, Kirriemuir Better Read Books, Ellon Books and Beans, Aberdeen Buchanan’s, Woodend Barn, Banchory Camphill Bookshop, Bieldside Claremont Gallery, Aberdeen

Hammerton Stores, Aberdeen Milton of Crathes Gallery Newtondee Village Stores, Bieldside Orb’s Bookshop, Huntly Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen The Coffee House, Aberdeen Touched by Scotland, Oyne Grassic Gibbon Centre, Arbuthnott Waterstones, Union Bridge, Aberdeen and various NEOS galleries

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