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

the wisdom of stones

no, you speak not a word to me,
not a sound comes forth
beyond your suggestive silence

without pattern or pretence
defensive you stand,
solemn sentinel of centuries past

the wisdom of ancient stone
is broadsome and bold
molding the land into clans

shaping history with mysteries
untold and untoward
whispered by simpering spirits

who demand, why are you here
what beckons you thus
unencumbered by all that we have seen

I fall to my knees, pleased to bow,
for all that I am derives
my dearly departed, from you

the Grey Cairns of Camster, the Highlands (May 2015)

this is me

I will never believe
that this inglorious me
as you have labelled
is the only me to be,

but choose to seek instead—
however disastrously
however comically—
to define myself!

to create my me
in such colors and tones
as I would most wish
to be seen by you—

speaking hugely in words
and accents as I would
most insistently, most proudly
choose to be heard,

for this is me

this is me

[Inspired by Lia’s https://liathepoet.home.blog/2021/02/03/c-am-em-g/ ]

I cannot listen to this sing without crying. My thoughts dwelling on my mother and father, and our homelands in Scotland and Germany, and all of the family and ancestors there whom I will never know beyond the reading and imagining. So … here is Scotland’s own Kris Drever and Lau, singing “Ghosts”.

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.]

voices

I recall the many voices
that sounded my childhood days
some in such lyrical fashion,
others with weightier authority—
those of my father, my mother,
brother, friends, even strangers—
and I would repeat them all
mimicking accents when alone
and safely unheard by others,
unheard and less likely to be mocked,
challenging notions of speech
and strictly defined identity,
never feeling quite comfortable
with being a singular voice.

Even now, I explore voices
while sharing them professionally
with others for pleasure.
Yet the one voice that must always
define me in accordance with
my own wishes is that of
my mother’s homeland,
land of the Stewarts and Bruces,
the Blairs, McConnells, Kennedys,
MacDonalds, Oliphants, Campbells,
McCandlesses, McWhirters, Hepburns,
and so many more clans besides
whose bloodlines still flow
in these aging veins of mine,
finding expression in the plethora
of pleading, playful voices
my heart endearingly speaks.

You are my past
and my future,
and to you all I say
tapadh leibh,
mo theaghlach.