[This poem, on the influence of childhood on the choice of English or Scots, came joint third in the 2014 McCash Competition. 'The Sheddae' means 'The Shadow'.]
They ask me, whit’s yir gemm,
scrievin a poem in Scots?
Since Ah didnae speak Scots as a wean,
wuidnae hiv deigned
tae speak the wey they spoke (the scruff).
Yit the leid wis aw aboot me,
in the swappin o comics and cowboy annuals,
talk o fechts and fitbaa
and lassies, and makin babies.
It’s different noo, the souns Ah hird then
hiv fauldit thirsels thegither like a cloak,
hapt thirsels intae a shape
at the edge o ma sicht,
stappin lichtly, whooshin alang, a sheddae,
a thrawn, persistent ghaist.
And Ah think, in the back-end
o ma life it’s time
tae look him in the een, greet him as a frien
Forgie me, but Ah ken yir voice –
vowels strecht tae the point,
consonants as haurd as a haundshake –
and Ah hope ye’ll condescend
tae brek silence
and exchange a word or twae,
comrade-like, on this bit o the road.