New Audiobook: Dark Capital

Very happy to share with you my newest audiobook performance: Dark Capital by Helen Susan Swift. This is the third in a series of supernatural tales from Helen, this one set in 1820s Edinburgh and moving between the Old and New towns, as Dr. Martin Elliot struggles with his own will–and his sanity–when an old staff he finds in his new home in the capital of Scotland seems to imbue him with supernatural powers … and a lust for cruelty.

I had a lot of fun narrating this tale, set in a city I dearly love, full of dark wynds and hidden closes and phantoms from a murky and sinister past. I hope you’ll give it a listen. Available at Audible at https://www.audible.com/pd/B092MXN9NP

And if you’d like, here is a brief sample to listen to:

guid wee fish

guid wee fish
fighting the waves
heart beating like mad

fervent wish
currents she braves
why e’er be sae sad

waters roll
crashing across
her bold golden face

heal yer soul
reclaim yer loss
seize one last embrace

time is noo
this life for ye
to fade no ne’er more

ask no hoo
nor why maun be
that I do ye adore

take the way
that ye decide
and ne’er ey look back

have yer say
embolden stride
love shall ye nae lack

Inbhir Nis (“Inverness”)

we did nae see the monster
but of course, we were nae expecting to

Loch Ness was simply a site
we had tae see, monster or no

we wandered the kirkyard of St Stephen’s
crying names frae centuries past

peering through cracks in the stanes
tracing fingers along the Celtic crosses

we indulged in the increasingly traditional fare
of pizza an’ the best Indian food we’d ever had

an’ of course we rode aroon the loch
an’ visited cairns an’ castles grand

the sun did nae appear oft, no much
an’ e’en that was tae be expected

aye, the chill was there to tame us
an’ the road north to John o’ Groats beckoned

but for a few days I could wish for
nothing more than the roads of Inverness

an’ the certain knowledge that
whate’er else besides might await me

I was home again at last in Scotland
an’ the Highlands were ey mine

it isna gold

He stood at the foot of the steps
that rise precipitately up from Grassmarket
to the crags that cradle the castle.

My curious wife heard him first,
sat on the sill of the window
glancing down to watch him bray.

“It isna silver, ye fools!” he declared.
“It isna ’boot gold, do ye hear me?”
And he danced from foot to foot.

The sun disappeared behind envious
clouds glowering insatiably down
at the oblivious shoppers of Edinburgh.

The angry Dundonian stared above
and grew still, his feet barely shuffling
as the castle imperious looked on.

“Ehl no lie, no me. No, no, no, no.
Wha’s fer Joe. It isna gold, isna silver.
Twa pehs fer Joe. Twa pehs, ain pint.”

A young tourist, “Here you go, Joe,”
dropped the angry old man a quid
with an embarrassed smile at his feet.

“Ehm no Joe!” he objected, and I
thought there were tears in his voice
as he moved back, staring at the castle.

“Twa pehs, ain pint,” he whimpered,
glaring at the Union Jack flapping above.
“A’ fer Joe. A’ fer oor bairn.”

Grassmarket from our apartment window (May 2015)

ain = one
bairn = child
’boot = about
Ehl = I’ll
Ehm = I’m
fer = for
isna = isn’t
oor = our
pehs = pies
twa = two

I wander yer words

I wander yer words
like a desert nomad
seeking water.

I cling tae yer sweet flesh,
finding warmest wonder
within yer arms.

I long for tender solace
frae this most fruitless
cave o’ solitude.

Dae ye ken me yet, lass?
Or ha’e I bitter become
a stranger tae ye?

You did ken me once.
I believe ‘twere you wha
cried me “Love.”


[I wander your words
like a desert nomad
seeking water.

I cling to your sweet flesh,
finding warmest wonder
within your arms.

I long for tender solace
from this most fruitless
cave of solitude.

Do you know me yet, lass?
Or have I bitter become
a stranger to you?

You did know me once.
I believe it was you who
called me “Love.”]

We Scots Abroad

There be stanes an’ tones
frae this braw land
that compose honest hope
in our aging hearts.

Frae distant hills an’ glens
we longing sing
the echoing sangs o’ auld
that nane may forget

how crews o’ shattered ghaists
sailed lonely caravels
ower the cauld an’ angry main
seeking warmth an’ chance.

Yet frae aneath the weight
o’ solemn centuries
still we maste emphatic cry
that this is our hame.

Alba gu bràth!

Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands of Scotland

[Perhaps I should explain a bit, just in case the language seems unclear:
stanes = stones
frae = from
braw = fine
sangs = songs
auld = old
nane = none
ghaists = ghosts
ower = over
cauld = cold
main = the open sea
aneath = beneath, under
maste = most
hame = home
Alba gu bràth. = Scotland forever. [literally, Scotland until the Judgement.]

of manhoods and more

I set my pint on the counter
an’ leaned forward a wee bit mair,
hoping thereby tae gather
some meager comprehension.

It was not an act of manliness,
no by any means, for after all
the warming whiskey in my belly
forbade me from standin’ erect.

Yet he seemed tae think rather
I was trying tae come off as mair
intimidating than I had intended
tae be at that precise moment.

So “Fuck off!” he declared
leaving me bemused and anxious.
“I meant nothing by it, mate,”
he concluded most decisively.

I had nae desire tae explain
to this wee gormless pillock,
who clearly had nae idea
what it meant tae be a man.

Instead I thought it enough to slur,
“ ‘Tis not the size o’ your cock
that truly matters, mate,
but the content o’ yer character!”

Then grinning I fell off my stool,
climbed back up off the floor,
and stumbled oot the door thinking,
‘You sure told him, ya prick.’

just tae be clear

Just tae be clear,

it had naucht tae do with the heavens,
howe’er prominent a role they play
in our poetic expressions o’ lo’e.

The stars shone just as brightly
as e’er they had in the history
o’ this most sullen earth.

The rain nourished the world
quite as sweetly as any adoring
mither had e’er nursed bairn.

The sun engendered life an’ warmth
an’ wandered just as surely
across the tempered sky.

Nae, wha’ changed was mair a matter
o’ that most generous heart,
which had suffered too much.

That is no tae say that it nae langer
possessed the capacity fer lo’e,
which is far frae the truth.

Rather that wha’ remained within
o’ her heart nae longer felt anything
fer him.

whispers

I ask myself in fear
why it maun be harder noo
tae hear the whisper
in the leaves which
hae begun tae mind
me o’ scratching mice.

The color painted sae
prettily aboon the skies
defies the imaginative
longing it once inspired
in my younger eyes,
graying in the dusk.

The majesty o’ the bens,
the glorious glens
seem forever faded
in the waning sun
as winter settles its
cold claws o’er my world.

An’ love? Aye, e’en so.
Ablow my straining
heart appending points
o’ sorrow seethe seedingly
for attention, crying
for the hope tae believe.

pathetic

It beggars belief
and buggers my soul
how foolishly feebly
I still plead wi’ me
despite the utter conviction
I constantly proclaim—
tae myself, anyway—
that it cannae hurt me
any mair, that I am free
and calm, and that nature
is my god, and time
is nae foe of mine,
only to cringing curl
into this whinging ball
of badly drawn ideals,
whimpering at how
unfair life has been
tae poor pathetic me.

So I stan’ up,
rub me eyes,
and pour myself
a lovely dram,
harshly appending
in quiet yet angry tones
“Haud yer weesht
an’ get oan wae it,
ye gormless feckin’
pillock!”

An’ that usually
does the trick.