‘It is a day to think twice about the colour of your footwear, nail varnish, contact lens.’

Today is National Poetry Day, and to celebrate BooksfromScotland are glad to share these extracts from Stephen Watt’s Fairy Rock, a crime novel written in verse. Set in Glasgow at the turn of the millenium it roams around the worlds of organised crime and sectarianism while exploring the disaffection and alienation from those left behind by poverty.


Extracts taken from Fairy Rock
By Stephen Watt
Published by Red Squirrel Press



Paying tribute to the savage giant cyclopes
in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, army friends had informally
named him Phemus after an explosive mine
accidentally discharged on a military training exercise.
One scorched doll’s eye shunted towards his nasal bridge
and like a Harryhausen creation,
he twitched, shifted damaged bones frame by frame
like a stop-motion picture being filmed in the Gallowgate.

Past the vinegary taxi ranks and weed-perfumed council vans,
Phemus’ bald, ugly structure lumbered between shady Irish bars
which cops relished to monitor.
Rumour whispered like Tolbooth traitors
that he had partaken in Satanic rituals
and that unfortunate homeless individuals
had meat sucked from their bones like crabs
inside their stopgap squats;
their metacarpals suited for dental floss.

Such nightmarish skinder hindered an ability to ever get close.
Abusing any bar’s breakfast license,
Phemus seemingly turned his blind eye
to the bigotry and violence,
squandering his dole money on coffin nails and stout.
As clouds of his soul slithered from his nostrils,
not a single patron had suspected
that he was a snout, a covert informant
for the filth, someone’s animated model
given new life to brief; Argonaut in training.



is tense flowers
of blue and green, blossoming inside boozers
where a thick air of language and stale sweatoverflows on to the street.

It is a day to think twice about the colour
of your footwear, nail varnish, contact lens.

In the home, the unwalked dog meditates pavements,
daren’t make eye contact if they lose.
The church is well-stocked ciborium’s and empty pews.
Is it true priests get free seats at Parkheid?

 On trains, no-one wants the day-shift
as the city spins grave colours on the faces of the neutrals.

Trouble is not prejudiced, welcomes all-comers
into its morning-after papers with blades incising faces
and into ribs in the dangerous places
your parents once warned you about.

Southern India, child-labour stitched-flags
stir hatred and poison and for many, this is an enjoyment –
a reason for existing. A sense of belonging.

Keep your head down
if you don’t like what you see. Glasgow’s about to kick off.



Loose lips sink shipments. House whisky cackling aside,
the two old, flat capped boys inside the Tolbooth Bar
had lowered their voices to hide their schemes.

Semi-automatic ArmaLite AR-15’s and detachable magazines
were easy to break into parts.
These had proven popular with Provo farmers
overpowered by British troops during the early scraps
of what became known as The Troubles.

The weapons would be smuggled in crates
laden with white sports socks.
A pickup point had been arranged
at Cairnryan Port, wherein a messenger would transport the box
up the A77 to an agreed drop-off spot
on the outskirts of Glasgow.

The job was worth two thousand notes
and word was that there was a boy just released
from a short-term prison stint identified to carry out the errand.
Below the television in the corner of the pub,
Phemus was using his military-acquired skills
to lip-read, squinting his remaining eye
to take heed of every detail.

The police would pay him well for such information
but now new priorities were leading his reasoning.





Fairy Rock by Stephen Watt is published by Red Squirrel Press, priced £10.00

Share this