with apologies to Paul, John, and all Scots linguists

‘Twas twenty years ago today
that this laddie cam tae toun tae stay
He’s bin gaun back ‘n’ forth a while
but noo for ever oan this isle
So let us introduce tae you
the chap ye’v kent fur a’ thae years
Scotty bides in Glesca ever mair!

Glasgow, 12 July 2021

I often feel like a square peg
in a world of round holes
the proverbial fish out of water

Feeling pain loneliness discomfort embarrassment insecurity humiliation bewilderment

I am often bewildered
in this new world of gender and sexual identities
Struggling to cope
with acronyms of increasing complexity confusion controversy
Recalling times when LG was PC

I have many identities
wear many faces:

The gay amongst (apparently) straight friends and neighbours

The sole male at a celebration with the cousin’s all-lesbian crowd

with no partner or relative
at gatherings of couples and families
A bit of sadness mixed with the joy
of seeing many queer friends
now legally partnered and married

The only Jew in the room

An American amongst Brits
(Please, no more “what do you think of Donald Trump?”—and I do have a British passport!)

The expat American on visits to the US
(not my home for over two decades)

The only non-Danish speaker at a meeting conducted almost entirely in Danish

The sole architect in a department of engineers

A bus rider in a community of car owners

The list is longer but I’ll pause it for now…

I didn’t choose to be an Other

Am I the Karma Chameleon
trotting out a face
Which ones to highlight, which to suppress?

Am I really that different?
I’m grateful
it hasn’t been that oppressive for me
Many Others have truly suffered

Yet I can revel in my Other-ness
seen as an exotic flower
a unique specimen
with opportunities to exalt my rarities
by embracing Intersectionality

Joy can emerge from sharing one’s differences:

I’ve become the poster boy for [fill in the blank]
I’m the last Jew left in the Gorbals! 🙂
With an exotic accent: “Where are you from?”
“You have a very interesting CV”
“You knew Harvey Milk?!”

Coming out as an Other is not a one-off
but a series of episodes throughout life

I’ve learned to embrace my differences
Face any challenges

From my Other-ness
Comes my Strength

An earlier version was exhibited at “Belonging: The LGBT Wellbeing Collective” exhibition, 23-26 May 2019, Project Ability, 103 Trongate, Glasgow

From my window, dazzling autumn colours
yet faraway
Within reach, window garden with fragrant mint, caressed
a luscious harvest awaited

Dazzling autumn colours and window garden with fragrant mint

Entry to Caboodle flash poetry competition (20 words max) for National Poetry Day 4 Oct 2018. My first (feeble) attempt at a flash poem, following judge Kate Clanchy‘s flash course in flash poetry:

Try making your own memorable image. Remember your five senses and list them down a page. Now write down the name of a favourite place, and note down what it smells, tastes and sounds of; what it feels and looks like. Avoid abstract big words and long adjectives. Try the same exercise with the name of a friend, or an idea like ‘hope’ or ‘nationhood’. One of these lists will be your poem – look for the oddest one, the one that sounds most like you.

VW flower power bus

‘Come With Us on a Bus to Luss’
read the advert
A promising start to a tour of Scotland
For other sights, you’ll need to

Catch a train to Dunblane
or a plane to Culzean

Ascend via cable car to Braemar

Sail on a schooner to Troon–or
fly a balloon and land in Dunoon

Book an overnight berth to the city of Perth

Ride the metro ‘neath the toun of Glasgow
Be pulled by a rope tow through the valley of Glen Coe
Paddle a pedalo to the burgh of Thurso

Haul your muck on a truck to Greenock
Hitch a ride with a lorry on the way to Tobermory
Drive your own ute o’er the Isle of Bute

Take the subway through the land of Galloway
Balance a Segway on your tour of Dounreay (radiation suits included)

Ride a golf cart through the parish of Cathcart

Waterski ‘round the isle of Tiree
Paddle a kayak to the village of Back

Soar on a glider, drop in on a Morningsider

You’ll need two yachts for sailing to Shotts
but only one scull to crew to Mull

Optional add-ons at the end of your tour:
Sail on the ferry to the port of Derry
Fly on a kite to the Isle of Wight

And remember your brolly and wellies!

A work in progress: I still have about 40 modes of transport lacking a rhyming Scottish location. Suggestions for new rhymes are welcome!

One world - Refugees Welcome

Photo by Ilias Bartolini on Flickr Creative Commons Licence

I am not a refugee
yet far from home I am
a migrant many times over
a stranger in unknown lands
unknown people
unknown language
unknown culture

I am not a refugee
yet I am their grandchild
and know their stories:
living in fear
fleeing oppression
to the New World
in the nick of time
before the gates were slammed shut

I may not be a refugee
yet know that you may struggle
so proffer a helping hand
to navigate these local waters

We must keep open these gates
welcoming you, in need of sanctuary
and be willing to make sacrifices
large or small
so that you can
breathe freely
live safely
be at peace.

Dad's architect's scale

Dad’s tools of the trade
acquired over seven decades ago
handed down to another generation
through university and beyond they saw me

eleven scales held in a triangular prism–how clever
solid wood–they don’t make them like that anymore
colour of ivory with accents tricoloured
bearing scars from years of battering
odors absorbed from toolbox neighbours:
ink leads pastels rubbers pounce and the like
rather rank if I may say so

reposing unused for many years
replaced by the computer
forgotten perhaps but not unloved
ready to be taken up again
by another generation

Writing exercise from the FutureLearn How To Make A Poem MOOC
A memory of a tool

Glasgow, 20 June 2018

I take up my tool
applied to his head
stroking, gently stroking
in waves
brush and I are as one…

…two, three
how many times
‘to one hundred’ cries he
smooth and long enough
to be let down
for his prince

Writing exercise from the FutureLearn How To Make A Poem MOOC.
Choose two arbitrary words as the prompt (one to be a tool)

Glasgow, 20 June 2018

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