Welcome to Episode 4, opening the second half of the event! We have for your delight Scots poetry from Georgi Gill, an ambient words and music track from Halsted Bernard, prose-poetry from Hannah Lavery, some tight, impactful verse from Clive Birnie, and a comically true (or not) historical tale from Simon Bendle to round us off. How about that! Enjoy yourselves.
* * *
‘Hey, pal, d’you see yon sign doon Gorgie Road
Taped tae the windae of the Horseshoe Bar?’
‘Aye – The Chance to See a Seer.
Are we gonny go?
Will we get our futures telt?
The jobs, the wimmin, the lottery win.
By Christmas we’ll be sillert an’ seilie.
Will she gaze long in wan of yon glass baws?
Gaze and craw like a bitch-fou corbie
“The Jambos’ll lift the cup!”
Are we gonny go?
Will she see our auras and orra that?
Let’s see what she kens, this hen?
Just mebbe she kens where ma Mary went
and why she took the bairns?’
Why ma bureau’s nae great dale
an ah’m aye kemping fer nocht?
Does she ken why life’s a bastart skiddle?’
‘Naw, pal, naw. No that sign. The other yin.
Aw pints twa pund aw day.’
* * *
* * *
From amongst the weeping women
Remember how we travelled with the spices and the jewels; through the deserts and the hot plains. How we looked upon the oceans and stood at the edges.
You walked with us, with us healers, with us women. We took you in. We shared our wisdom, our suffering, our love with you.
You healed with us.
You prayed with us.
You walked with us.
You stood with us.
You fall and we remember. I remember, I remember that hot road.
Here, they lament at your suffering to come but we, you and I, we know of suffering. We know of sacrifice. We knew long before you stood before them. We had met it, met it then, there in that quiet place, in that darkness and in that fire.
A shout; a call from the dark, a weeping husband begging us to follow him. Her women, stooped low with exhaustion, stone still, cold, defeated.
Inside, the girl, beautiful like sunlight, suffering with her long labouring. On her knees, clawing at the dirt, moans deep, hips high, head low, body rocking, swaying, begging, fighting; a deep darkness readying.
I went to her with an old remembered song. I pulled her up into my arms and held her in a slow dance. You added to the fire with the herbs we had gathered. You went deep into to the shadows.
I held her upright in my arms. Her broken, worn out body rested itself against mine. She sought strength and relief from me and then we began to sing, to dance her boy, her gift, into the world. Her fragile arms reached down low to catch him, to draw him up and close.
Afterwards, I lay down with her and guided her boy to her breast and for a short moment we were blessed.
Then, you shook in the darkness. You spoke in low whispers; the shadows had come for her.
As she brimmed with the fever, you and I battled alongside her and as she was taken in convulsions, you took her boy away in your arms.
I saw you wet him with your tears.
I kissed her, I held her so still body to mine and you bought him back to the last of her milk, to the last of her warmth.
And, remember, we stayed there beside her and her child; in the heat of the herbs and in the fire of our prayer.
And, you left, only as her spirit left and I stayed and cleaned her.
I wound him tightly in a piece of her cloth with a lock of her hair tied in close.
Later, we shared water from the well.
That time, my friend, my teacher; that time, those days when you stood with me, with us, will not survive in their telling but the heart of those dark nights; the truth gathered from amongst us women will remain because of you; because you took our stories, our tears, our wisdom and bathed yourself in it and I hear us, in you. I hear those days you took; from the darkness you took; from her dirt floor you took. I hear us, we hear us, in you.
They call you prophet, they call you messiah.
They speak of you and I remember. I remember you. Your love holding me from where you stood with the shadows and I believe. We believe, because you were with us, in our struggles, in our magic, in our beauty. We gave you something of us, something that you now give to them.
We, call you truth.
We, women of the spirit, of the earth, of the herbs; we, handmaidens; we, wet nurses; we, midwives; we, mothers and whores, will all be forgotten, but our stories, our stories whispered into the dark, into the shadows, we give those to you.
We witness, we gather here, here amongst these weeping women, amongst these Daughters of Jerusalem, we stand here, by you, by your mother, by Veronica; veiled and silent, willing you to stand up, to stand tall in your purple robes, in your crown of thorns.
We stand here forever, in the shadows of your story, in the dark forgotten corners of your life, in the light of your death. We stand, here amongst these weeping, wailing women; we, the women of the spirit, of the earth; we, whose nails have clawed at the dirt.
* * *
If you have ever hit a badger, you will
understand. It’s a life changing event.
The flash of stripe. A crunch. What have I killed?
A man, dog or deer? Oh I shall repent,
driving too fast, too late and in the dark.
Turn off the engine. Step out into the wet
to find her unharmed. Leaning on the car,
bent double, wracked by such a hacking cough.
“It’s the fags,” she said, “gives me bad catarrh.”
I took her home. To rest and to recover.
With crumpets and sweet tea, sat her by the fire,
a blanket on her knees. It was no bother
really, but it can only be the stripes,
she drank all the water in the taps and smoked my Lucky Strikes.
If you’ve ever been hit by a car, you will
understand. It is a life changing event.
The flash of light. Seeing stars. What! Am I killed?
Heading out that night – I had only just left.
No moon. No stars. To light or mark my path.
Stupid really. I’d stopped to light a Kent,
when – BANG! – it came. Flipped out all the Earth.
I should say, it really turned me over,
I came THAT close to throwing up on his car.
But if you can girls, try and pick your driver.
Take a chance. Pick a card. It doesn’t happen twice.
If you hit a wild one, boys, she might be a tiger.
So what? He likes to moan. So I smoked his precious Strikes.
I ate his food, drank his beer. What about my stripes?
* * *
Percy on Song
Good old Col Percy Harrison Fawcett. Mad as a monkey of course. Who else would devote half his life to looking for lost civilisations in South America? But he was also a professional British army officer of the old school, tough and tenacious. And it’s this curious mix of hard-headed soldier and kooky eccentric that no doubt caused him to react so memorably when, in 1910, he came under attack from Amazonian Indians.
Percy was heading up the Heath River in Peru when it happened. He was in dangerous territory. He’d been warned not to venture there. But off he’d gone anyway, his small party poling its way up the murky river in canoes. And predictably, on the seventh day, the men rounded a bend and ran straight into a group of “Guarayo” warriors who wasted little time in sending their way a hail of poisoned arrows.
Percy and his men found themselves pinned down on the other riverbank, the deadly missiles zipping over their heads and thumping into the ground around them. But they held fire: retaliation would surely only seal their fate. And instead Percy tried raising both hands and shouting “peace overtures” across the water at the bowmen. This proved unsuccessful. “The arrows,” Percy wrote, “flew thicker than ever!”
Then inspiration struck. Among Percy’s men was one Gunner Todd, a musical fellow who happened to be travelling with his accordion (as you do). Todd was directed to sit on a log and start playing, stamping his feet to keep time. A “mad sing-song” followed, strains of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”, “Bicycle Made For Two” and “Swannee River” bellowing through the rainforest. “Ludicrous…” Percy later conceded, “Anyone coming on this scene would have said we were all roaring drunk.”
Ludicrous or not, it worked. Mystified Indians, their faces painted, began emerging from cover. Seizing the moment, Percy hopped into his canoe and paddled over to greet them. Incredibly, friendly relations were quickly established. Laughter and back-slapping followed. By dusk, Indians and explorers were old pals and Gunner Todd and his accordion once again took centre stage. “We slept well that night,” Percy wrote, “for no one was required on guard.”
* You can read more in Exploration Fawcett, an entertaining account of Percy’s adventures complied from his letters, log-books and papers