The Falls of Dochart

They have made me redundant.
My revenge is ferocious
And it will last a thousand years.
I am a stranger in England.
I am a stranger in Scotland;
A wee Scots boy growing up in an English village.
The white fury of the Falls of Dochart.

There was no God before the DNA.
Pelagius was right:
There is no Original Sin.
I am rejected in England.
I am an outsider in Scotland;
My home is to be found in the hearts of the poets.
The white beauty of the Falls of Dochart.

They have made me redundant.
My revenge is ferocious
And it will last a thousand years.
Unwanted in England.
Bred outside Scotland
I have no landscape to return to.
The white fire of the Falls of Dochart.

I read your book, Mary MacLeod.
The harpers and the ring-givers.
You brought the vernacular to the classic.
I am not English.
I am not Scottish.
Our sort came from the beginning.
The white fury of the Falls of Dochart.

The first four years

I was born at 107 Eastbourne Road
Just up the hill from Bank Top Station
Where Locomotion No. 1 sits on the platform.
In the last week of the war
A German bomber flew down our street
And my mother flung her body across my cot in panic.
I saw Pinnochio and Sinbad the Sailor
In the little cinema at the end of the road.
We lived in the hospital house.
I was born on a Saturday night
Just as the pubs were coming out.
I hurt myself dreadfully on the slide in the park.
We had two spaniels, Sandy and Rip.
I have no emotions about my childhood,
It is just something that happened to me.
It is not until I was five and we had moved to Coatham
That I enter on the scene.
But Pinnochio and Sinbad the Sailor
Have always been a part of me.
And I return from my travels
When I see Locomotion No. 1 on Darlington Station.
Something went terribly wrong for me there
And turned me into a magician of words.
I was born with the genius of place.

Susan at Coatham

I am the poets' poet.
Struck by lightning I name my cats:
I name Fritz, I name Ferdia, I name Ludovic.
Poetry, most innocent of occupations.
Language, most dangerous of possessions.

The dread of nothingness.
A hunting horn sounds out across the ruined shire,
Emily Brontë burns the manuscripts of Gondal,
The dusts sift and twine under the grassy stones:
To sleep forever; like Heathcliff.

I am on a holy journey.
And I can choose those who will accompany me ---
To meet Susan at Durham.
Twenty years ago, when I came to Bath,
I believed I carried the future of English poetry with me.

A man's life is like a sparrow
Flying through the hall of a king;
Who knows where it comes from
Or where it goes to.
The joy of homecoming.

`The road was our school. It gave us a
sense of survival; it taught us everything we
know and out of respect we don't want to
drive it into the ground... or maybe it's just
superstition but the road has taken a lot
of the great ones. It's a goddam impossible
way of life.'

`Though formerly I heard about the road
That all must travel at the inevitable end,
I never believed that this today
Would bring that far tomorrow.'

You have to tell a story.
I hunt through my head for the words.
The delapidated white summer-house.
The head-high green nettles.
Susan at Coatham.

No! Susan was never at Coatham.
The surviving photographs are of
Ann Kirkwood, Gillian Arthur, Josephine Arthur,
Mic Clark, Ron Clark and Mum working in the garden.
Susan was never there. She should have been.

It would have suited her.
The languorous summer days.
The sharp snows of December.
My father would stand and stare over the wall for hours
Out at the outside world of people.

The trees were cut when I was nine years old.
It is written: Woodlands.
I remember Old Stokey saying to me
As I wrote my initials on his fresh concrete:
`This will last forever.'

Kinmont Willie

I have no imagination,
I write from experience.
The words are jumping into my head again:
It is the duty of the working class
To buy drink for the upper classes.

My books were written and published to be read by one person,
Although the Cat Poems were for my mother's 80th birthday.
The bold Buccleuch sprang Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Castle;
Walter Scott, Keeper of Liddesdale, doing his duty.
I always wanted to be among the English poets.

My mother's people were from Picardy,
My Uncle Willie died at Ypres in 1917,
The patterns of my life cover four continents;
The generations go back five hundred years.
I lead the hunt thru history.

I was educated in the Second City of the Empire,
I learnt to be of the West.
A hundred thousand years since we came out of Africa,
Forty thousand since consciousness exploded in the caves. 
I am of Greece, Rome and Ireland.

The Enlightenment in the Northern Athens,
The mathematics of Robert Rankin,
That and a belief in houghmagandie.
I am at the beginning of a journey,
I will find the Grail.


In my house I create text on my obsolete Nimbus 286 PC.
I wordprocess the poem with LaTex software,
Then I print off A4 copies on my Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 500.
I Kermit the text to UNIX thru my Amstrad modem,
Then via e-mail and Usenet out to the world.
Within an hour of being written
A poem can be on its way to 25,000 readers.
The technology is amazing.

I walk up to the Englishcombe Inn
With my poem wrapped up by an elastic band.
I deliver the words to my friends
And purchase a pint of 12 Bore beer from Sussex.
This retirement life is a success.
My friends haven't brought their spectacles for reading.
Later, when I return home, I login to UNIX thru the modem
And find two critiques of my poem, delivered by e-mail.

My cat Ludovic sleeps all afternoon,
In the morning he is active chewing his cloth mouse.
He hasn't much of a brain,
He hasn't yet found how to get from the back door to the front,
All he lives for is his stomach.
He is more affectionate than Fritz, but he is not neurotic;
He will never be famous on the Internet.
I create...


Poetry is a way of marking out your own space on the planet:
I have added a codicil to my will.
My purchased books go to the Scottish Poetry Library,
My literary remains to Glasgow University Archives.

What I wrote to Susan about Disbanded:
This is your book,
I finally got around to writing it.
You should have married me.

I have one of the best brains in Europe:
It didn't keep me in a job.
It doesn't get me published.
I am to be in an anthology of neglected poets.

My life is not a total defeat:
I have a house, and a hundred thousand dollars in the bank.
I have a cat called Ludovic,
And a taste for Glenmorangie in the pub.

The success is in having been yourself: 
Nobody could mistake a poem of mine.
From the morning to the citadel,
And on to Dysholm. My lilac is flowering.


I will never stop writing about Coatham Mundeville.
I design the books that will last forever,
And put Susan at the centre.
No woman would want to marry me
As long as she is on the planet.
The only certain thing about Susan is that she will behave badly,
Like a creature out of Jane Austen.
It is rough without you, Susie.
I do the best I can.
Long may you run.

I will never stop writing about Coatham Mundeville.
Yesterday I started work on my garden for this year.
I dug out the twenty-year-old roses,
Ruining my back and my gloveless hands.
Today I bought replacement plants and installed them:
White, yellow, pink and red.
Tomorrow I must buy seeds of alyssum, pansies.
I haven't been involved with my garden for fifteen years.
But now in my retirement
It is time to be creative.

I will never stop writing about Coatham Mundeville.
It is better to love than to be loved.
Tell the truth but tell it slant.
I have planted cuttings of my lamb's ear, snow-in-summer,
I hope it was not too cold last night,
It is a time for fertility.
I went out in the morning air
For it was that time of year,
I looked out over my green domain
And said: Death hath no fear.


We are stardust, we are golden,
We are the riders from the East,
We fly in on the Perseids,
We always return.

In the Northern night,
As Winter puts an end to Summer evenings,
And Autumn is at hand,
I huddle in my sweater in the pub.

I think on Poetry
And how I am the unknown outsider.
I think on Love
And how it has always been outside me.

We made up the stories that enchant children.
We framed lovers' kisses.
We embellished old age.
We are the font of youth.

In the morning light I will look West for you.
At mid-day I will raise my eyes to Heaven.
In the afternoon I will love you.
We can change the world.

Alexander at Thebes

I am twenty and have a world to conquer.
I was standing on a mound by the Danube
Under my blue and green banner
Pacifying the aborigines
When word was brought
That Thebes was in revolt.
Perdiccas and I came
Through the Gates of Thermopylae
Like a whirlwind.
Demosthenes, my father's enemy,
And Athens were behind it.
It is necessary to teach a lesson.
Demosthenes calls me the lone wolf of Macedonia.
Well, my garrison is besieged in the Cadmeia,
I will devour Thebes.
Perdiccas leads the first assault on the walls,
And falls wounded.
The people will be slaves,
The warriors will be killed,
I am twenty and have a world to conquer.
All to be spared will be the house of Pindar,
The poet,
Over which the red and brown banner flies.
The poets are immortal.
My vision is too large
To be interrupted by a petty democrat.
We Macedonians will rout the alien Greeks.
I will be everywhere in the attack.
There is no stopping me.
I am twenty and have a world to conquer.
I am Alexander.


The Maiden of the Silver Bow crosses the quadrangle,
Headed for her pentagrams and whisky.

The Greek gentleman with his black shiny shotgun
And his white red-eared dogs examines me
As I cruise past on my motor-scooter
On the way to my favourite Skiathos beach.

The island is thick greenery, close-packed trees,
I climb the steep slopes to train my thighs for the swim.
In early evening as the sun goes down behind the mainland
I look at the waters below the orange globe.

At night the voices come, they say I will be raped,
They say I will be killed, they dare me to sleep.
I sit in the bars and drink, terrified, a spell
Has been cast on me, I talk with my hands.

I lie on the sand with my arms spread reciting my poems,
My face buried in a towel. I am a hunted animal.
The voices come out in the night-time. They say they will rape me.
I haven't yet entered the water since I arrived. My swimming a secret.

I leave my clothes and my Omega Constellation watch on the beach.
And swim. Out into the rich water. My thighs crackle.
I swim to the nudist beach where I talk to a girl.
The voices are absent. I wait till evening for the magic time.

The fisher boats wallow in the bay with lights to attract fish.
I sit naked watching them approach. Fireworks explode over the town.
There is a commotion inside my head and I stand up erect.
I address the god. I accuse him of hounding me. He ignores me.

I realise I have to swim for it. I wade into the water.
It is a beautiful swim. Like clockwork precision.
My muscles well-trained. I could swim forever.
I pass a ship with its red and green lights. They see me.

They wave to me. But I am on business. The voices will follow.
As the morning comes up I am half-way across the channel.
There is no going back. I swim beautifully. Forever.
I hear the voices coming up behind me. They are to rape me.

They talk to me telling me of my fate. I swim.
I swim for hours. I am slow but I do not tire. Breast stroke.
I see the land ahead. Like Omaha Beach. I see a village.
I head North. I have to wait for my brother to fly to Athens

After I am reported missing. I head up the coast.
After sixteen hours I emerge from the water. I live.
I stand on the stone blocks staring back at Skiathos.
And howl derision at those who would have killed me.

In the night the voices come. I sit at the foot of a cliff petrified.
They talk to Switzerland and to Aycliffe for me. I think of
The Lady in white watching from the hill in Skiathos as I left my clothes.
I think how she walked away, leaving me. To die.

I survive the night among rocks that become dead babies.
In the morning I swim South to a safer spot.
I try to cut my throat with a stone. I am unworthy.
I have to wait another night. Then the voices come back.

I see boats searching for my body in the channel but I hide.
There are men sitting in the boats scanning the water.
I am frightened of men. The voices are a part of me.
I decide it is time. I swim down to the village.

I emerge naked from the sea and an old man gives me
A plastic sack to wear. I am taken into the cafe
To drink beautiful Greek brandy. They talk of a miracle.
The ambulance is on the way. The voices say they will kill me.

I am clothed. I strip my clothes off in the ambulance.
I want to die naked. We come to the hospital in Volos and I have to dress.
I am put in a ward two floors up. I try to fling myself from
A window onto the concrete below. An old Greek peasant saves my life

With his strong grasp. The voices still tell me I will die.
The nuns teach me the Greek for `Thank you'. My brother
Arrives and heads for the psychiatrist. We drive helter-skelter
To Athens Airport. The voices say I will live. I am mad

As a hatter. I believe they are running conspiracies against me.
It takes ten years and five books of poetry to recover in England. 
The Maiden of the Silver Bow crosses the quadrangle,
Headed for her pentagrams and whisky.


I must tell a story.
I think of Alexander snapping the trap on Darius at Issus.
I think of Yeats beating the gong as his dolphins leap.
It has been a long journey,
These are the figures haunting the imagination,
Now I am through to the other side.
I look on a black cat, descendant from Roman Felix,
Who has lived here in Bath for two thousand years intacto.
I have fifty years of memories,
There is no sense in it, no story.
All there are are books,
And I am beyond those.
Why write another one?
The challenge of creating!
But first to invent a story.
Of unemployment and an empty mind.
Of alcohol in the afternoon.
Of having no dreams.
In the waters of the Granicus I saw a kingfisher,
It had plunged headlong down from its height
And secured a silver fish.
But that was twentyfive years ago.
The campaign has run its course.
The black cat sleeps.
There is no story.


I live in my little cracked house;
I am here for life.
The house is unsellable,
Nobody would lend money on it.
I filled up the cracks with Polyfilla,
But they came back.
I am here for life.

I live in my little cracked life;
I am idle, unemployed.
They keep on fixing hard drugs into me,
To keep me alive.
I once tried to swim out of it,
But they brought me back.
I am idle, unemployed.

I live in my little cracked dream;
I mimic the magician.
My poetry is redundant,
Though it earns me a pint.
I was to be one of the great ones,
But they said get back.
I mimic the magician.

I live out of my mind.

The Dream

We were going out there.
The launchpads at Canaveral are now
Like the temples of Angkor Wat.

A Bath beggar sits cross-legged on the pavement.
The busking string quintet plays
Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No. 1.

Evensong at Durham Cathedral.
Nine hundred years since this Rocket was launched,
The Industrial Revolution comes to a halt.

A world gone wrong, the faith dissipate.
Fritz Cat's funeral music: a hymn for Glasgow.
Little ordinary lives leading to the grave.

We were going out there.
Ten-year-old boys kill toddlers.
We save our poison for this planet.

We were going out there.


I come from the big house.
My relative James Pittigrew, a merchant of Glasgow,
Sailed for Charleston on the Countess in October, 1774.
Thomas Petykrew, of the County of Lanark,
Rendered homage to the Crown of England in 1296,
Edward 1's brief triumph.
John Pettygrew, church official, witnessed the promulgation
Of a Papal Bull in Linlithgow in 1461.
The antiquary, Thomas Pettigrew, published
Bibliotheca Sussexiana in 1827.
Sine sole nihil. Nothing without the sun. Our motto.
Our nickname is that we are of the little people. Petitcru.
We have lived in Lanarkshire since the thirteenth century.
We are Old French. Norman. Viking.

My Uncle Willie Pettigrew was killed at Ypres in September, 1917.
The Third Battle of Ypres: Passchendaele.
He was aged 30 and with the Australians.
This is the poem found in his diary:

Now, this is the creed of the ANZAC men,
The men with the hearts of gold,
What we won from the foe, by the steel and the gun,
By the steel and the gun we hold.

From the heights afar, and the sky above,
There may come the hail of death,
But we yield no yard of the ground we won,
Till the last man yields his breath.

We are few --- who should have been many here,
And our ranks are thinning fast,
But, by the Christ who died, for each boy who falls,
We will take toll to the last.

We are fighting now for the folks at home,
For the land from which we came,
And we are hanging on, and fighting hard,
And we are dying hard and game.

There are long quiet nights for gallant mates,
Who have fought, and fighting fell,
But for every one who has dropped his gun,
There's a fresh Hun face in Hell.

Aye, this is the creed of the ANZAC men,
The men with the hearts of gold,
What we won from the foe, by the steel and the gun,
By the steel and the gun we hold.

Pte. William Pettigrew [21.5.1887---21.9.1917]

The Master Poet

I pretend to be the master poet.
I tell stories of a thousand years,
Not knowing where we are going.
`Life is walking around until you drop down dead.'
There must be more to it than spreading the DNA,
But there isn't.

Gibbon envied the Age of Diocletian,
I have had the best of lives.
Untouched by want or hardship,
Savaged by emotion.
Brought face to face with death,
Learning to ignore it.

Aunt Phemie died last week at 97,
Returned to her girlish self in her memories.
She was Glasgow Art School,
Exhibited her paintings in London in the Twenties.
She is burnt to a cinder,
But her drawings will survive.

Take this book off the shelf
And read the words written by James Elroy Flecker
`To a poet a thousand years hence'.
I listen to the gale howl at my window.
I think of the hungry generations.
I write these words and think of Heaven.
You will understand.

Douglas Clark/ Poems93/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/