PART OF THE From the Shadows ISSUE
‘You’re the new and improved You. Sure, you’ve started eating meat again, but don’t tell her that. Just pretend you don’t, and we’ll deal with it after.’
Break in Case of Silence: New Writing Scotland
Edited by Rachelle Atalla and Marjorie Lotfi with Gaelic editor Maggie Rabatski
Published by ASLS
a nighean, mo nighean,
bha thu gu bhith nighean
d’ athar. sheallainn ort
a’ turraman mun cuairt
ruadhag am measg guirmead
an fheòir, làmhan beaga
a’ greimeachadh air stocan nam flùr,
fo sgàil na craoibhe malpais.
annas sgàrlaid thu.
faileas do chasan air mo dhà ghualainn
a’ teannachadh, is tu a’ sealltainn
bho àirde fuamhaire
sunnd saor, solas buidhe
na grèine, gruag
ruadh, air neo,
’s dòcha nach biodh,
is gàire, gàire
mo chridhe. cha bhithinn
bha mi ’g obair air d’ òran-tàlaidh
ach uaireannan falbhaidh nithean leis an t-sruth.
you were (to be) a daddy’s girl.
I’d watch you teeter along –
little taller than the grass
– wee hands on the dandelions
and the maple tree.
a bright red anomaly.
ghost of your legs on my shoulders,
clung on tight, looking out
from a giant’s height.
just a smile,
your mam’s half-smirk.
it was (to be)
I’ve been working on your lullaby
but sometimes these things slip away.
THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LOVE LETTER EVER WRITTEN
It’s gotta have a sick line about love. Something really deep. No roses or chocolates or anything like that. Maybe go down the Carol Ann Duffy road and whip out a vegetable? Not an onion, obviously, Duffy’s got dibs on that, but something as symbolically weighty. Avoid the phallic stuff, tho. No carrots or parsnips. You don’t wanna start making comparisons. Maybe a potato? Yeah, a potato – that works, because you gotta peel those layers off to get to the really good stuff . . . and then douse it in water to get rid of the starch, and that – maybe that – could be like the metaphor for her breaking it off with me, ya know? So there we go: we’ve got a potato on the cards and it’s beautiful, right? Maybe you could say something like she’s gotta bake me in her oven? Maybe not. Maybe something else. Come back to this.
Remember, you’re funny. Like real, real, funny. So, make her laugh. Not at you, though. Don’t, for example, tell her about the time you brought a raw egg into your viva and how it broke in your jacket and dripped onto the table which made it look like you’d come on the desk. Don’t tell her that. Don’t tell her about how you passed your viva but felt so incredibly depressed after you convinced yourself six months later that you hadn’t really passed because it was only on a single author and your internal clearly hated the project so much you know in your heart of hearts it wasn’t actually a real pass and you don’t deserve to have a PhD. Don’t tell her any of that. Talk about how you’re an academic now. A Doctor. Doctor Silverman, PhD in Literature, Theology, and the Arts. That sounds good. That sounds powerful and impressive. Never mind the abandoned book. Never mind the failed career in academia. You don’t need to talk about that. Tell her a joke. Keep it light and casual and breezy. Extra, extra, breezy.
The key thing here is to be cool. Coolness is how you win her affection. You were cool when you met her. Remember when you met her? God, you were happy. For years, you had thrush coming out your ass: red, raw, itchy thrush and then one day you went and got happy and POOOOF – it disappeared. And you were walking thrush-free like a normal person. You were swaggering happily along without having to stick a sneaky finger up your bum to settle the scratch down. You walked for hours and hours, showboating your bum’s ability to not burst into flames. Then you and her matched on Tinder and you were really clever and cool and funny because you could walk for hours without
scratching your bum; you felt confident and capable and when she asked you, super casual like, if you wanted to go back to hers, you did so nonchalantly, as though you weren’t at all fazed that this woman was asking you back to her place, even though you and her both knew what that meant: sex – holy fucking shitballs, S–E–X. And best of all, because your asshole wasn’t itchy and sore and red you went and had good sex; it wasn’t like the mind-blowing sex you would go on to have later, because, well, let’s not get carried away here, but it was good with an emphasis on the ooooooo. Remember that when you write this letter; it’s key to show her that you’ve still got it. You’re still that guy. You can still have sex. You don’t cry after masturbating. Fuck no, that’s not you. That’s not your style. You’re still the guy from way back when. So make sure to tell her all that.
But don’t make it nostalgic. You’re not doing this because you are hankering for the days of yore or anything like that. You’re all about being present. You’re into mindfulness, these days. You’re Captain Chill. You smoke weed now. You even buy your own stuff and have your own dealer. You meditate and do yoga. You’re the new and improved You. Sure, you’ve started eating meat again, but don’t tell her that. Just pretend you don’t, and we’ll deal with it after. Maybe tell her you’re going to be a teacher now. Will she like that? Maybe . . . Teachers are kind of straightlaced and dull, though. Maybe tell her you’re only gonna be a teacher until you get that book deal. That it’s just a means to an
end. You’re gonna be a writer. She’ll fucking love that. Who doesn’t love a writer? Especially a writer like you. Tell her about the novel you’re working on. Be sure to mention it’s on the Holocaust. She’ll be impressed by that. She’ll like that you’re exploring your history. She’ll think you’re deep and serious and stuff.
Be poetic, too. But don’t be clichéd. You don’t just read Mary Oliver anymore. Sure, by all means, mention her casually. She’s her favourite poet, so it’s worth slipping her into the conversation. But be really subtle about it. You don’t continuously listen to readings of ‘Wild Geese’ and ‘The Journey’ and cry in the shower. No, of course not. Nor, whilst we’re on the subject of crying, do you still watch the birthday video she made for you on YouTube. Those Russian bots, I reckon, are responsible for all those views. You read other poets now. Make sure to name a Black poet or two. She’ll be impressed by how woke you are. But don’t, for fuck sakes, say you’re woke. Nobody woke ever calls themselves woke; that would make them virtue signallers, tokenistic gesturers. You know, phoneys. And you’re not a phoney. You’re real and
serious. Deadly serious. Tell her when you get a salary you’re gonna donate money to BLM. Maybe to Palestine, too. Maybe both, you haven’t decided. Tell her how hard it is to think about what charities deserve your money most. She’ll recognise how charitable you are, and she’ll remember how concerned and caring you have always been.
Maybe don’t tell her you listen to Bukowski after every wank. That’s a bit weird, that. Do other men listen to poetry after they’ve masturbated? I hope so. Maybe ask the therapist. Oh, remind her that you see a therapist. She’ll remember how reflective you are.
You’re always willing to have a big old chat about your feelings because you’re always doing that anyway. You’re a writer, after all, and a writer is all about expression and feeling. You’ve got a beautiful inside, especially now that the thrush has cleared up. What else? Nature. She fucking loved nature. She loved the trees and the leaves and the branches and the birds and all that stuff. So make sure to mention that. Tell her how you listen to the sound of the wind and stand and stare at the petals of the flowers. Maybe mention how you have thought about posting flowers on Instagram but chickened out because you didn’t want to seem contrived. Tell her that you love being outdoors because of how pure it all is. You feel all peaceful and serene when you’re around the sea. You love watching birds fly, even pigeons, and you adore the sound of the seagulls squawking in the early hours of the morning. God, she’ll read this, and she’ll remember: she’ll remember how layered you are. Like an onion, amirite, Carol?
Don’t forget to mention your spiritual turn. I mean it’s all well and good being an atheist because organised religion is so obviously corrupt and wicked – definitely use ‘wicked’ here – but you’ve come to realise, after spending so much time outside of the city, that there’s something real here in the world, and the only word you can muster for it is spiritual. And you don’t know exactly what it means, and she’ll think that’s fantastic, too, because precision isn’t sexy. Factuality isn’t what anyone wants. No, it’s gushing, vivacious pontification! You, the eternal philosopher, are always lost in thought, running around with yet another idea regarding the meaning of life, a theorem that is beyond any words or formulas. It can’t be explained, because words inevitably fail your extraordinary ideas.
Tell her all that. Remind her of just how beautiful a mind you have. Who could possibly resist such an extraordinary letter? It’s perfect. She’ll read this and realise what a huge, huge mistake she’s made. She’ll call you straight away. No WhatsApp or Facebook. Straight on the phone. I’m sorry, she’ll cry, I never knew! I never knew! And you’ll be so chill about it. You’ll slowly rise up off the bench press, where you’ve just finished yet another PR, and you’ll tell her it’s okay, you still love her, and you’re ready to try again. And she’ll be so grateful. And you’ll move out there to be with her. And you’ll both live happily ever after. Just as soon as she reads this and realises: This is the Most Beautiful Love Letter Ever Written.
SKIMMIN STANES WI MA WEE BRITHER
geed up tryin ah says, whitz the point
o these mark-missin dayz? wur aw scunnert.
But then you says tay me Backspin. Frisbee.
N ah felt a strange sense o epiphany
Loch Doon turnt roon n winkt at me
your words drappt like beats intay this treacle sea
harsh deep or shalla sweet it flows richt thru us baith.
So ah picked oot the best kinni stane
wee, oval n flat, fit fur the croassin, ken
ye showed me hoo tay lean in nice n low
(level wi a loach but staun up tay a sea)
by this time, ma stane wiz perched in the porch
atween thumb n forefingur
Don’t Overthink It, ye sayz
Backspin. Flick. N lit go
when ah lit go ah felt aw ma failures take aff
fay ma fingurtipz fur the first time
ah’d harbuurt thum fur years
inside fists o fear. Well-nae-mare.
We baith stood back n held oor breath
watched as ah struck stane gold, conductin
four brass-bold skims, (doot doot doo doo)
n then. A fifth wan landit oan your lips
settlet intay a smile that could launch ships
ah did it
ah did it
ah did it
ah did it
AH DID IT
Break in Case of Silence: New Writing Scotland is published by ASLS, price £9.95
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