Wednesday 27 April 2011

A Wee Guest Poem: Jim Murdoch

Empty Days

Larkin was right…
about so many things.
So why did I expect
more from my days?
I saw myself
sitting astride my life
trying to cram in one
last something

before I got
the ruddy thing shut.

But I'm going
nowhere so there's no need
to fret about what to
take and what not.
I try to tell
myself that quality's
the main thing. I just hoped
for something...else

before the dust
finally settled.

Jim Murdoch is a Scottish writer living just outside Glasgow. His poetry appeared regularly in small press magazines during the seventies and eighties. In the nineties he turned to prose-writing and has now completed five novels, two of which have been published and a third is due out later this year. In July 2010 he published a collection of poetry, This Is Not About What You Think.

Thursday 14 April 2011

A Wee Guest Poem: Shug Mcmillan

Interpretations of
the Picts at Anwoth
Shug Mcmillan

In the saucer of hills
above the Fleet, broom is
everywhere like waves.
By scorched stumps of gate,

circles and mazes dug
in stone like maps of the soul.
Look here, a crystal ball,
and there, a tree to hug.

Where did they come from,
these men in Mohican cuts
with their secrets of Reiki?

Where did they go to,
these men in black ships,
with their flames and butchery?


Deserted funfair in the rain.

Just the two of us.
A day out after so many years.
You're looking well, I say.

We'd go on all the rides,
but there's no one there.

At last.
My God they're fast, I say.
We skim the rink in ever-decreasing circles.
It's like a dance.
Then we're poles apart.
you're hurtling towards me.
The picture freezes:
Your hands on the wheel -
and that smile -
that smile -
Then it's over.
We're moving again.
You steer right,
I steer right.
The collision never takes place.

a smile
or its memory
takes you back
to an idea
of what happiness was
but wasn't.
even on Dodgems,
collisions can't be avoided.

Tuesday 12 April 2011


It had come to this -
crawling around in a scorching field
somewhere near Bulgaria.
He was fifty,
doing the work he did
as a boy.
Same wages, too.
His bed was the back of a pickup truck.

There was nothing else,
although he tried to see it
He thought he knew it all.

At the end of the second week
the wolves got him.
His own fault.
He'd been told to be careful
at night.

Andy Crawford talks to Andrew McCallum Crawford about poetry and why posting stuff on your personal blog isn't publishing.

Andy Crawford: Snappy title, Andrew.

Andrew McCallum Crawford: We aim to please. Hit it.

AC: What's with the poems, Andy?

AMcCC: What, you mean the stuff on my blog?

AC: Aye.

AMcCC: You don't like them?

AC: Eh - no comment.

AMcCC: Just as well I'm not going for publication, then!

AC: Really?

AMcCC: Yes, really. The poems, for me, are a starting point for something else, hopefully something short story related. That's allowed, isn't it? My blog, my rules.

AC: Some publishers get a bit sniffy about taking poems that have appeared on personal blogs.

AMcCC: Yes, they seem to think that because you put it on your blog then it has been 'published'. I think they're being a bit precious, to be honest. Wee Fictions, I've said before, is a work in progress. If I don't like something I've posted, I'll go back and change it, or delete it.

AC: So you don't agree that blog posts constitute published work?

AMcCC: Certainly not. I think we need to look at the word 'published'. What does that mean? It can mean lots of things. I think if someone likes your work and puts it up on their site, then the work has been published. Someone is putting their reputation on the line by promoting your work. And, of course, if it's on someone else's site, it can't be changed. This is another facet of 'published' - you can't go back and change it. It's out there.

AC: But what about self-publishing, Andrew?

AMcCC: I don't really think you can seriously call it self-publishing on the Internet.

AC: Many people would disagree with you.

AMcCC: Well, it would be boring if we all agreed with each other.

AC: Is there a difference between self-publishing on the Internet and self-publishing in print media?

AMcCC: Absolutely. Self-publishing in print is something else entirely. First of all there's the cost, but more than that, as you know, anything with an ISBN has to be lodged with the Legal Deposit Libraries. It goes into the national archives, if that doesn't sound too grand - but that's what happens. Which comes back to this thing about reputation - your own. It really is sticking your neck out time, putting your head on the block. I'm all for it. But the problem with self-publishing is distribution.

AC: We'll have to leave it there, Andrew.

AMcCC: What, just when it's getting interesting?

AC: Maybe we can do a blog post about distribution some other time.

AMcCC: Fine. Although I'm not promising anything about snappy titles.

Monday 11 April 2011


when the skin is touched
a line is crossed; it was crossed
before you reached out

Sunday 10 April 2011

Two Poems: Serious and Mantra In A Leeds Accent


the ticket is bought
depart Heathrow; no return
it's cheaper this way

Mantra In A Leeds Accent

Vodka and orange.
Tall glass.
Ena pago.
Sip it slow.
Chase me.
Catch me.
See what I do.

(Glossary: Ena pago - one ice cube.
                  Kalamaki - a straw)

A Wee Fiction - Aliens

The blog's called Wee Fictions, so here's another one. First published on McStorytellers.

Because we're all ffffforeign.

The Aliens Police Office was in the red light district. The building looked derelict. The paint was peeling off the facade, and there was a huge chunk of brickwork missing at the entrance, as if it had been rammed by a truck. According to the sign, the lift was big enough for six adults, but it was usually stuck somewhere. This was why the stairs were so crammed with people coming and going. All of them, like me, were foreigners.

To read the whole story, follow this link to the McStorytellers site:

Fuck Buddies

We are married.

Not to each other,
of course.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Car Parks

A married man
who arranges to meet
a married woman
in a hotel car park
an hour's drive
from home
isn't going there
to talk about
car parks

never mind


pang of jealousy
false alarm; it's not her man
the feeling was real

Friday 8 April 2011

Tone Arm

The Weeping Song. The last song of the night. Time to go home. Home. Time to go. The record spins on the turntable. Focus. The only light is the light on the end of the tone arm, illuminating a minute circle of bobbing vinyl. This is the Weeping Song. He raises his glass. He looks at it closely. He examines it. Maybe it holds some kind of secret. Perhaps an answer to a question he hasn’t thought of. The contents are emerald, precious, glinting in that tiny light, the only light in the bar, the only light in the world.

How It Starts

Our mouths in congress
serpent tongue devouring me
from the inside out

Thursday 7 April 2011

Mike's Wedding

Chas was the best man.
At the reception
he asked the band to play
I Knew The Bride
When She Used To Rock And Roll.

He got punched.

It was that time of night.

Wednesday 6 April 2011


He's there most nights.
A thousand miles
from the place they call 'home'.
(The meaning is changing -
it's a process he's working on)
His seat at the window.
The small glass:
he watches an ice cube
turn milky in alcohol.
The pouch of tobacco.
The piece of paper
and the pen.

Though far from inert,
he never reacts.
Not even when voices are raised
and fists pound on tables.

They don't annoy him.
They know he's in his element.

A Wee Fiction - One Day In The Life Of Derrick Mooney by Douglas Lloyd

Here's something by an old acquaintance of mine, Douglas Lloyd. Haven't seen him for years. According to his biog it was first published in 1989, in a magazine called Scottish Stories. Not available on the internet, unfortunately. However, the story has just been republished on the excellent McStorytellers site:

I think there's a definite Kelman influence. Either that or Slim Scotchboy. Maybe both.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Practical Criticism - Advice From Your Examiner

The pavement
outside the pub.
Look at him,
sitting there.
On his own.
Scribbling poems full of tears and pining
for women he has loved.
The pint of Guinness
at his elbow,
and a wee tumbler
of Macallan,
the ten-year-old,
much superior to the thirty.
Puffing on his fags
(he knows they are Bad,
but he's hooked).

He's an MA candidate's cliche come true.
Of course he is - look -

It's easy to find
now I've told you
what to look for.
It's easy to bend it.
It's easy to cheapen it.
It's easy to get a
good mark
in your exam.
Don't reflect.
Regurgitate -
Original thought
is so much more difficult
to mark.


Scrounge the coins
for a Nescafé.
You think
you look like Mickey Rourke?
Well, no.
The glamour in your life
comes from the Guardian
folded on your knee -
delivered by the

Two days late.

Monday 4 April 2011


picture of a girl
green ink on the envelope
words that meant nothing

A Wee Fiction - The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL

I wrote a series of short pieces under the title 'The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL #1 - #30'. Here's numbers one to ten, first published on Ink Sweat and Tears.

# 1

Sally got sacked for bringing stray dogs to class, although she swears it was because she refused to wear shoes.

To read numbers two to ten, go the the Ink Sweat and Tears site:

Sunday 3 April 2011


right arm swings the stone
granite hewn from Ailsa Craig
dont push; let it go.

Hockey Player

A valued member
of the team -
Right Wing
(he could run like fuck).
His stick was Sondico
21 ounce
with a nail in it.

A Wee Fiction - A New Life

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be posting links to stories I've recently had published, along with short extracts. I'm going to begin with 'A New Life', which, in a way, is where everything started. It's about a young man's first night in a foreign country.

A New Life - first published on McStorytellers.

She drove in silence. It was 1 o’clock in the morning, but the roads were full of cars heading into the city. There was something on the radio, Bon Jovi. I asked her if that kind of music was popular here. Western music. She glanced at me, then reached down to increase the volume.

The full story can be found here:

Saturday 2 April 2011

From 'Drive!', by Andrew McCallum Crawford

Rimmer was sitting on the toilet, enjoying a post-ejaculatory Gauloise and ruminating on that new catchphrase that was being bandied about everywhere – Safe Sex. He was a practitioner, of that there was no doubt. No one would be transmitting viruses to him, oh, no. He was, and would remain, as clean as a whistle. He stroked his appliance, which was balanced on his knees. Meticulous aseptic technique, that was the key.

You can find out about Rimmer, his appliance, and a whole host of Edinburgh misfits in Andrew McCallum Crawford's debut novel, 'Drive!' - available at these links:

Amazon co uk

Edinburgh-shop com

Lone, Loner, Lonest


He gave up
playing with his friends
before he
broke them.

Loner (2)

He gave up
playing with his friends
before they
broke him.

Loner (3)

They gave up
playing with their friend
because he
bored them.

Loner (2)

He gave up
playing with his friends
before they
broke him.