Tommy Smith, Brian Kellock
2014, Spartacus Records
"Devoting a beautiful saxophone sound to the interpretation of popular standard songs is a pursuit that goes back 80 years or more – but Scottish saxist Tommy Smith and his resourceful and sensitive piano partner, Brian Kellock, prove how much mileage remains in it here." [read more]
Edinburgh’s 12th Century broken heart
Erupts with celebratory applause,
Smiles caress Rodin’s sweet art
Through untouchable marital laws.
Imposition of Anglican liturgy
Ruffles the golden goose,
Literal Presbyterian eulogy
Frees the hangman’s noose.
Senses agitate, foreheads glisten,
I arise and respectfully follow
The newly weds as the congregation listen
To the organ as it reverberates fortissimo.
Floating through holy aisles
Merriments trail dank air,
In the High Kirk of St. Giles
Odors spiral plaited hair.
Feverish allergy, invasive toxins
Filter the word of God Anglais
Generations of invasions,
Dictating guilt, fear and compulsion to pray.
Sporting my ancestor’s pretty kilt,
An amusing breeze blows cool and airy,
Towards the evening’s cotton quilt,
Music and sobering malt of the ceilidh.
Beyond the Kirk, adjacent to the spirits
And spit of the Nation’s heart,
A King Charles Chevalier pivots
And zooms after a once elusive wildcat.
I kilter off balance but steady myself
On the 5th Duke of Buccleuch’s statue,
And pretend nothing happened by averting my gaze
To a gull perched on Walter’s curlicue.
While posing for photos the feisty cat
Rockets by chasing the King,
I exhale a sigh as the feline acrobat
Regains dignity after centuries of pursuing.
The married couple mount their Mercedes
As the bride’s bouquet silhouettes the sky,
Rotating like a ballerina in a meadow of daises
Descending eagerly towards the passersby.
Caught by the pernicious cantankerous gull,
Fibonacci’s posy of elegant roses nosedive,
Graze and tumble upon the stony quadrangle;
White bouquet and persistent scoundrel survive.
Dog and cat attack with synchronized jaws,
The gull ascends with a caaa-caaaa rose-free,
To perch upon a spouting gargoyle because
Views far above are Albany.
Guests awe and gasp at the tangle of fur,
Then the wildcat escapes into the Kirk
To feast on intelligent rats that scamper;
Furry spirits oblivious of latticework.
The procession navigates down the Royal Mile
Past a piper playing a lament.
The throne of Arthur’s volcanic smile,
Shadows North Bridge’s foundation cement.
We arrive back at the Balmoral hotel,
It’s clock famously two minutes early
To assist travelers in wishing their farewells
Either north or south of Waverley.
In room 1314, I cast off my breeches
And ventilate to meet the elite,
At the gathering of the speeches
In the sumptuous Sir Walter Scott suite.
Drinking and legless jollity follow
Euphoric dances and giant roast beefs,
Swirling yards of tartanisms that echo
Inflicted shame on banned clan-chiefs.
I try to pause, expressions melt
And the room heaves and burls,
Fire face red, drunken celt
Let’s bribe more greedy Earls.
I quickly poured another malt
And addressed my swaying kilt,
Slurring like sleat in a somersault,
Dam, dram gracing floor, spilt.
“Ye bedraggled, mothball eaten
Patriotic fabric o’ time.
I plead yu tae speak tae m’
Yu mishmash o tartan slime.
Resonate wi’ m’ a smack
Or a smidgeon o realization
Aboot Scootlund, th’ jack
‘N’ this country’s unionization.
Impart yer scholarly wisdom,
Recall fae future-past.
Ah implore yu, ah beseech yu.
Yu wooly Hielan outcast.”
The kilt speaks:
You are certainly intoxicated sir
And that’s no way to speak to a kilt.
I’ll be a truthful babbler
Until your self-confidence is unbuilt.
You are nothing but a pretender
Perpetuating a myth.
Why do you call yourself Scottish
When only you recognize it, Adam Smith?
You are a chinwagger with a foreign dialect
Uttering fast rhythmic sounds,
That baffles the southern intellect
And reinforces Hadrian’s mounds.
Yer locked in th’ cludgie
Huvin a wee stooshie
Juist cause a wee beastie
Bit ye oan th’ bahookie.
Yer juist a wee radge
Wha’s erse needs skelpin,
Juist haud yer wheesht gadge,
Or ye’ll git a beltin!
Yer a wee cowering hoolet,
Sleekit, muckle clocked ‘n’ glaikit,
Gonnae shoogle ‘n’ cool it
Ye schemie peely-wally eejit.
Yer juist pure mingin’
Wi’ wiry hairy oxters
‘A’ yer aye bloody singin’
Aboot charlatans ‘n’ hoaxers.
Howfur come yer aye blootered
Oan dreich ‘n’ bonnie days,
Mibbie yer wappenshaw needs neutered
‘A’ goosed lik’ a Fabergé.
Sae ye’r left a’ alane
W’ mawkit geggie screamin’
Na need tae hae anither bairn
Cried Albany fur th’ schemin’.
Proclaiming yourself a Scot
Is considered rank, invalid and vain;
Powerless strength, seamless crackpot,
By law, you must declare the Kingdoms chained.
While completing a passport application
Your alien identity is misconstrued,
Intertwined through world web officiation,
You must choose UK on drop-down menus.
You smirk and shrug it off
Like a placid Presbyterian beast,
Tamed like the house of Romanov
Through centuries of countless deceased.
You are still a puny pretender
Perpetuating a folkloric disjoin phage.
Call yourself a Scottish defender?
When no one recognizes your coinage.
You are scared of transformation,
You are petrified of going it alone,
You are anxious about monetary misinformation,
You are sheep, worried about clearances and headstones.”
I reply to the cloth of my ancestors:
“Bun-kum, a tum-tom toosh!
Why are you beating aboot the bush!
Plaidie squabbling fabrication.
Haggis basher, get oot ma Nation!
Your razor edged tongue,
Sharply poisoned with veracity,
Wounds deeply cutting among
My lacerated audacity.”
The kilt interrupts:
“Take me off and put yer troosers on Jock!
For seven hundred years
Scots and English bled.
Endless battles, crimson tears
Countless Kings dead.
Acts upon Acts
Of law enforcing power,
Legally bound to detract
Behead and devour.
Acts of Settlement, Security & Proscription
Burned freedom into our heart,
Poisoned political cunning inscription
Forced the Scottish nation to part.
Scaremongering tactics and chanty jive
See karmic laws unfold untold truth,
For the Alien Act of 1705
Pressurized the Scots and future youth.
By treating Scots as foreign nationals,
Their estates as alien assets,
The Alien Act was so irrational
But achieved its sweet regrets.
Unless we entered freely
Into a union with mighty England,
Half of Scottish trade discreetly
Embargoed in my opinion.
The Scottish Parliament’s conclusion,
106 Ayes to 69 Noes,
By signing the Act of Union,
1707 an extremist blow.
Scottish people powerless to change
Broke out in discontent,
The Kirk & Jacobites did arrange
A partnership to torment.
An English-dominanted Parliament
That provoked us from within,
Bought loyal Scottish predicament
And their alliance a bargain.
Paltry pounds of callousness
Our future fate was clinched,
Injured, pitied and lynched.
After the Union in 1707
Followed more bloody wars,
Corpses ascended to Wallace in heaven,
Blood streamed Scottish shores.
Glenshiel, Prestonpans and Sheriffmuir,
All screamed with axe and sword,
Death lay wallowing on Culloden Moor
Where brave Jacobites once roared.
The ground black with blood,
Scots gutted, slain and strewn,
Writhing insane in clotted mud,
Cut down by red Dragoons.
To end the Scottish Highlands
Ability to revolt,
The English crushed my lands
With a fist of thunderbolt.
For thrity-six years the English smashed
The structure of the Clans.
Hushed and crushed while necks were slashed,
Me, the Highland Dress was Banned!
Half a year of incarceration
For wearing a Highland kilt,
Proud price to pay for separation,
Trousers cover coward’s guilt.
Caught a second time
With Tartan underneath,
Seven years for crime
Grinding at your teeth.
His Majesty’s Plantations
Across the seas, wait for you to come,
Enough of poignant lamentations
To the beat of the English drum.
Scottish heritable Sheriffdoms
Reverted to English Crown,
Plaid wearing meddlesome
People and culture drown.
But before and since 1707
Scots discovered and dreamed,
Inventions that observed heaven,
Others that puffed and steamed.
From the pneumatic Tyre wheel to tubular Steel,
The Telephone and Sherlock Holmes,
Radio, Radar, the Calendar,
Television and Higgs Boson.
Bank of England, Bank of France,
Let’s vote Aye and clasp a chance,
Marmalade and Stirling Heat,
Let’s not forget Dolly, the Postage Stamp Sheep.
Curling, Golf, Shinty and Football,
Cycling and Peter Pan,
Long John Silver, the Carnegie Hall,
Macleod of Lewis Clan.
MIR and PIN,
BBC, Sean Connery,
Malt Whisky and Modern Sociology.
Hypnotism and Hogmany,
Insulin and Colour Photography,
Chloroform, Burke and Hare,
Billy Connolly’s bum is bare.
Fierce and tribal,
King James Bible.
Miles of Wire Rope,
Tins of Shortbread,
Did we invent Wikipedia?
But Modern Geology,
SI unit power, Watt?
Iron Bru and Paraffin,
Fax Machine and Halloween,
World’s first Oil Refinery.
With a Gregorian Telescope
You spot a humpbacked whale,
Iron Steamship isotopes
Spouting Kelvin’s Scale.
New York Herald, Penicillin,
First text book on Surgery,
Self Filling Pen hyperventilates
Modern Asthma Therapy.
Imaginations for creation
Enlighten our amazing nation:
Bovril Gravy, United States Navy,
Worthy of no parchment declaration,
Our backyard a dumping ground,
Northlands a faded sensation,
Experimental people uncrowned.
We send taxes down the road,
Where they decide to spend it,
If we keep our money stowed,
Return Poseidon’s Trident.
But today I remind you aristocrats
Repetition of History wail,
While spiteful political diplomats
Panic North Briton’s tail.
Render us mute and impotent,
Coerce and bully the Scots,
Quivering and non-combatant,
Stagnate like putrid water-pots.
Light the fire in your belly,
Melt their offensive rhetoric,
Be inspired by Machiavelli,
Focus and be a maverick.
But as a pseudo Scotsman
You wrestle negative doubt,
Quietly observing the fiery charlatan,
It’s important to rise and shout.
Your focus and deliberation,
Passport to the world,
Grants you passage for exploration,
Warmed heart unfurled.
Years of circling the globe
Sees a soul without a nation,
Scottish loot a xenophobe,
You forget to exchange your money
And travel far abroad,
To reach cloudless lands of honey
Quickly on Concorde.
Without thought or question
Nor pious picky prejudice,
You present foreign indigestion
With speechless guttural injustice.
Embarrassed you drift away,
Credit card at home,
Your cash burned by Dante,
And head back to the aerodrome.
Coin of Hans Christensen Andersen,
Considered false economy,
Exchanged to English loot in London,
Scotty-dosh no isonomy.
The tens of thousands that have died for Scottish freedom
Mean nothing to the no-thank-you sway,
For finance and fear have always defeated
Yes we can do….
Yes we can leave…
Yes we can decide..
Yes we can achieve.
Why trust the banks
Who gambled our currency,
Whose mis-managed managers overdrank
And deliquesced this Nation’s solvency.
Expounding Scotland’s future
Is in the hands of our youth,
Uprising for our Culture,
Welfare, Workforce and Truth.
Making your own mind up,
Hope conquers enforced fears,
Job opportunities lined up
Progressional new careers.
Intimidation from doomsayers
In our land, our garden of Eden,
Self governance welcome naysayers,
Our backyard, our freedom.
Oil fund for generations,
Ta-ta to crumbs from Westie’s table,
Governing budgets and administrations,
Our country rich and stable.
If you vote and cross a no,
Democratic right is yours,
Carved in the manifesto,
Enticing atomic lures.
In times when a ghostie wrote,
You prayed and crossed your cross,
Limbs believed a single vote,
Empowered the Alba-tross.
Tuning to the solo note,
The power is ours to spend,
Yes Aye, is the antidote,
And our country will transcend.
We are people determined to carve
A path out in the snow,
Clear directives not to starve
And govern our own show.
Or is our destiny to be wrapped
In fluff and cotton-wool,
And looked after like a patient strapped
In an asylum fit for fools.
We have clearly been diagnosed
Crazy and off our heads,
To contemplate, coast to coast,
City freedom to farmstead.
For we know not, how to run
Our own land as in England,
Nine hundred years, empowered sons
Since first King Kenneth MacAlpin.
YES is not an aye in the sky,
It’s a real optimistic choice
To banish the Union’s samurai,
Clean cut through and rejoice.
Our hands and impressions
Decide our future plans,
Our bonds and expressions
Shape our vibrant lands.
It’s healthier to be neighbours
Than be ruled until you’re blue,
No ambition to govern raiders,
In woe, we’ll help you through.”
And with a weave of passion
The kilt unfolds its memories
And slumps on gravelly ground,
Silence unravels mysteries
That embroider and astound.
For the future is clearer
Than the brightest bluest sky,
Our cosmopolitan nation-state should always be independent,
Make it that way again and vote Aye!
Written by Tommy Smith
The Catstrand, New Galloway, Scotland 18 April 2014 (more…)
Glasgow, Feb. 2014