Northwords Now

New writing, fresh from Scotland and the wider North
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by James Appleby

Those boys don’t know how old they are.
Coming by me in the road, bass drum
hung on the strongest’s shoulders.
When the mallet strikes taut skin
he asks my street a question: with us?
His mates join in song.

Insistent as a pulse
in the ear, standing up too fast,
in the wrist of a clenched fist.
It could be any pack of half-pissed lads
chanting their fathers’ tunes.
Funny how abuse becomes an heirloom.
I’ve sung at rival towns and referees.
How different is it? I don’t ask myself.

The worst of us
slowed to a heart’s pace.
The inevitability, I think –
a drum will make you cruel.
They’re passing now.
That pulse fades, seems to quicken,
slows again, like a remembered insult,
and the city ghosts maybe
stretch a hand to one another
or scrap and rage, long dead.

Northwords Now acknowledges the vital support of Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
ISSN 1750-7928 - Print Design by Gustaf Eriksson - Website by Plexus Media