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


Dark Capital

Today I completed production on my audiobook for Dark Capital by Helen Susan Swift, and I have to say, this was a real pleasure to record. I feel I have been very fortunate in my audiobook productions, being hired to perform novels that I really love from Laya V Smith, Suzanne Rogerson, Zach Abrams, and Malcolm Archibald, among others. I first encountered Helen Susan Swift when I listened to the audiobook for her The Malvern Mystery, which was a lot of fun to listen to, so well narrated by Melanie Crawley. I had no idea at the time of listening to that fine mystery that I would get a chance to perform Swift’s Dark Capital, set in 1820s Edinburgh and inspired by the legends of the twisted warlock Thomas Weir. It was the perfect blend of mystery, supernatural, dramatic, and sinister. I loved it! I hope you’ll give it a listen when it comes available on Audible (probably in a month or so). In the meantime, here is a SAMPLE you can listen to to whet the appetite.


i can still hear their needful echoes
rising up the steps
flowing over the stained walls

i think perhaps they are laughing
i hope they are
although sometimes they shout at me

and when i trembling reach out
to listen, to feel
more deeply than ever before

i notice the path is still broken
and shards remain
untended by even the smallest hands

From Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh (May 2015)


it could well be said
that i know more of nonsense
from the bearing of my own
gallus clammering heart

than do the pitter patter ponces
who stroll salamander street
of an evening fair and lonely
and desperately clinging to fantasy

then again, it could just be
that my imaginings tend further
in the direction of aching truth
than i give myself credit for

you never know


The whisperin’ banes o’ Greyfriars
Throu their long fadin’ prayers
Chant endless verses in my mind

Ever vigilant skulls taunt me still
Peekin’ under crumblin’ eves
Wi’ laughin’ smiles far less than kind

Pretty the banes o’ silent poets
Pretty the teeth o’ thae bairns
When lust is a beggar’s remorse

Empty jails o’ rottin’ covenants
E’en weeds hold mair life than thee
Though surely ye did stay the course

Yet whit o’ me this barren bodach
Wi’ skin barely livid now
Whit stories are yet tae be told

Ablow the limbs o’ this creakin’ oak
Ower grass that maun niver dry
In a city sae clarty and cauld

Whit braw dreams ha’ brought me shiverin’ here
Tae rest on Alba’s shores
An’ stumble amang silent stanes

Tis certain the keen hoary bogles
And bean nighe o’ dreadful cares
Shatterin’ the night wi’ frightful tanes

Then whit o’ me this dull headed gowk
Appalled by life’s angry wynds
Droppin’ crumbs at every dark close

Whit chance mine o’ final redemption
When A canna even hope—
Whit horror will Dia impose

2015.05.19 Edinburgh.Greyfriars 048

The facade of a tomb at Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh.



The whispering bones of Greyfriars
Through their long fading prayers
Chant endless verses in my mind

Ever vigilant skulls taunt me still
Peeking under crumbling eves
With laughing smiles far less than kind

Pretty the bones of silent poets
Pretty the teeth of those children
When lust is a beggar’s remorse

Empty jails of rotting covenants
Even weeds hold more life than thee
Though surely ye did stay the course

Yet what of me this barren old man
With skin barely livid now
What stories are yet to be told

Below the limbs of this creaking oak
Over grass that must never dry
In a city so filthy and cold

What fine dreams have brought me shivering here
To rest on Scotland’s shores
And stumble among silent stones

Tis certain the keen hoary bogles
And bean nighe of dreadful cares
Shattering the night with frightful tones

Then what of me this dull headed fool
Appalled by life’s angry streets
Dropping crumbs at every dark close

What chance mine of final redemption
When I can not even hope—
What horror will God impose

[Think of a bogle as a ghost, sometimes perceived as threatening, but others just as a trouble-maker, seeking to confuse or frighten people.  The bean nighe, literally the “washer woman,” is something like the banshee in Irish tradition.  She is said to haunt streams or waters, forever washing the clothes of those doomed to die, thus presaging death.]

one more glass

stands untouched
upon the mantle bare
the flavor passed
the moment gone

recalling such joys
i’d never thought
to have known at all but
for my beloved you

you reach behind
and stroke my neck
and let the touch
of love beguile me

your fingers adept
caress my deepest
soul with hope intent
on one more kiss

and so before you go
a saddening smile
across your lips
bespeak but to me

this simple oath
that before this time
of mine be done
we two shall share

in gentle warmth
and keenest bliss
a loving embrace
and one more glass


Laya and George enjoying a literary pub tour in Edinburgh