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6 poems from Gardening in Hell

On the end of the bar
The Protestant Sacrament
Step Outline I
Deid Bee
Trying to find the Berka
On the end of the bar,

An ultra-violet light catches the plastic Aftershock
glass on the Tennants mat; itís vivid on the dark
towelling, picks up, too, the red spots aiming
at the stage, the wee stage, the wee high stage,
the wee high stage with mirrors round it
and Sammi sitting on the edge of it, with her thighs

pressing against the edge of it. Her wee skirtís
silvery like a fish, a fish lit from within with blue-red
neon. I think the shadows that the blacklight casts
are brilliant, that deep, that warm, that deep;
and how the unexpected under blacklight
fluorescent, shines ... some whites, some

blue synthetic fabrics, drips of semen or of piss
on trouser fronts. They shine, they shine, they shine.


He'd prayed for money, and the prayers had failed
and failed again until that poverty was cured.
Finally, he bowed his knackered head
and asked for wisdom; Hokmah, feminine.

Please God, the Spirit, Ruah, feminine,
might fall on him and fill him, give him peace,
give Hokmah and B'nah, give understanding
ich bitte dich, gib mir Weisheit, Gott.

All those years he'd talked to God as if God was
a bloke; now, on the run, especially from English,
he hid himself in languages where gender posed

more of a problem, called to Elohim, the plural God,
called out just as Solomon had done, called Father, Av, Abba,
remembered that the plural takes a feminine form, Avoht

The Protestant Sacrament

The Western Bar,
The Burke and Hare,
The City Gate

The Grassmarket,
The block, the noose.

A way between
Heaven and Hell,
a theory
for animals.

Animals and lovers, that is.
Poor soft folk that hide
their love in low-down dives,
finding good fellowship there.

Step Outline I

It was late in the day when I arrived,
late, that is, if you reckon the day in teeth,
or `theeth', which was all the boy could manage.

Sergeant Doyle from Vice was pleased with himself:
`It always struck me as improper
that a nigger-boy's teeth should be white'.

Ideas above his station, that was Doyle's beef.
Black guys on his manor doing their best
to go around with their eyes bloodshot,

by which I mean, the whites of their eyes.
The rescue mission wasn't a huge success,
then, but neither was it total failure.

And if that was Act One, Act Two
had to be a long trip across the desert
with Doyle doing El 'Awrence as hommage

To O'Toole and Lean. `And do you know what
was so awful about it?', this after he'd shot
his one-time faithful houseboy A-rab;

`I enjoyed it'. Well I never.
I knew, then, it would come to a showdown
between me and Doyle. Light sabres,

handbags at the OK Corral. We were both drinking
by that time, me and Doyle, we both knew,
but neither of us could be sure

who would end up playing Cuchullain,
and who would vainly strap on Ferdia's
stone role. All this over a darkie.


But such is honour, such is the force
of the shame culture Doyle
and I were trained in. Guilt culture

was already there in the blood and bone:
me, and seeing that poor black boy's shattered gob;
Doyle, and seeing that same shattered gob.

Drink will do that to you, so they say.
Doyle he matched me bottle for bouteille.
We watched each other out of watery corners

yep, of watery eyes. Right. Tell it on the cut:
a sequence of uninflected shots
where choice, not spectacle = action.

A MAN, unshaven, sneaks out of booking office,
looks around him, shifty, boards the train.

(If you've got the cojones for clichť,
cut to his boots in the dust: the shiny star
of a Sheriff's badge landing in the dust.) Or,

Shot frames doorway of Sheriff's Office.
SHERIFF, clean-shaven, walking tall, emerges.

This shaving stuff matters somehow.
That, and getting the girl, that
and the image-system. Especially that,

think of the wheat in Witness, ripe,
wind-brushed wheat, dry as the desert,
shining and golden as cheap liquor ...

So Doyle and me, we think of the black kid
and we look each other in the eye;
we haven't shot the ending yet, but

me and Doyle and the black kid and the girl
can all visualise the alternatives.
It's me or Doyle. It has to be me or Doyle.


I'd like to say I chose the wounded heroís
brave, clean-shaven role; it broke my heart
to cast the spear, but that I cast it all the same.

I'd like to say that Doyle chose that same role.
I'd like to say the script had kept us close
the way a good script always does,

but still resolves the narrative. Choice?
It's gey late in the day for heroes.
I killed Doyle because I had to

but I killed him clean, one shot. He dropped
bloodless, instantly, still. My tears fell
pointlessly beside him, made wet stars in the dust.

Deid Bee

A bee is deid on wer kitchen flair.
Puir bee, at winna be na mair.
Sich beins canna be repairt; wance
deid, they're deid for ivvermair.

Trying to find the Berka

Loaded up with Fuji 100,
lost somewhere to the west
of Sharia Clot Bey,

seeking, down the narrow lanes
the knocking shops of yesteryear,
seeking fuck knows what,

a glimpse of someone on a balcony,
a little vintage ironwork, and
seeking fuck knows where,

I stray. I stray and stray and stray.
The last thing people want, in any social situation,
is accurate information.

Iím trying to stay parallel
with Sharia Clot Bey,
but nothing is parallel.

Nothing is parallel with anything
any more, not the present with the past,
not the past with the dreams,

not the nightmares with anything.
Only the film is held flat
to an approximation of the focal plane,

and the sunlight,
and the lines it casts, the two lines that define
the edge of a stick, and the shadow between.