Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Sleeping Giant

by Ross Wilson

There can’t have been many who knew
The Zulu Dance of Death in Kelty.
Ramsay Mackay did.
He didn’t just know it: he did it in the pub.
A big man with a Walt Whitman beard,
Ramsay looked like he’d blown in
from the nineteenth century
via the sixties counterculture.

Everyone was Ramsay’s brother.
When someone objected, “Ah’m no yir brithir,”
he was corrected, “We’re all brothers, brother.”
Introduced as “Ramsay, The Poet,”
I must have been a midge around his beer,
nipping his head about Rimbaud and Baudelaire.
A legendary bass player and singer,
I’d no idea how much he’d done.

Years later, YouTubing his name,
I came upon song after song after song
scrawled by his hand, sung in his unique
Scots-born, South African tongue.
Ramsay carried a notebook like a wallet.
It had no market value, but
if words were gold, Ramsay was rich.
“He lives up Benarty,” I was told.

The Sleeping Giant to locals,
Benarty hills outline against the skyline
is a Gulliver tied down in Lilliput,
much like Ramsay in Kelty. Well over six foot,
I remember him kicking snow off his big boots
in a bar where the clientele rolled joints on tables.
Back then I kept my interest in literature so close
to my chest it made an impression on my heart.

Ramsay blew in like permission to be myself.
A true gentleman, his individualism
didn’t conflict with the community:
he stood out and blended in
like a sore thumb warm in the village glove.
Though he sleeps now like the dead,
when you press play he wakes
and makes a dance of life out of death.