Friday, September 21, 2012


I have walked the high places, seen
the haze in the glaciated
trough beneath my feet;
I have heard the raven’s croak
among tall crags, felt the winds
keen around my head. I have
trusted my life to a friend, sensed the
taut rope’s reassurance,
known the joy of balance
on the white path’s ribbon.
I have sensed the unseen God in
the fierce, dangerous joy, the
tension and the trust, and always,
always the wind of his breath
piling the tumultuous clouds,
sweeping the pale sky clear.

©C.M.M. 12/01

Friday, September 14, 2012

Arles: Feria du Riz

Photo ©Fraser Shiells, by permission

Sitting at lunch beneath the shade
we heard the gunfire - loud, sharp - 
and then the growing noise of cheers
above the music of the band
and rushed to line the barricade
between us and the road.
And what came next was troubling to
the me that thinks I’m civilised
as horses clattered in the dust
and lances waved and suddenly
I saw the bulls - small, dusty, black
and gone: a swiftness barely seen
as bodies swirled and young boys clawed
and darted in among the hooves
and grabbed and cheered and strutted there.
And my blood raced in sympathy
as small dogs yapped beside my legs
and all my civilised disdain
was pulverised and lay in dust.

C.M. 09/12

This was a fascinating, thrilling and ultimately disturbing experience - the more so because I had not anticipated the event. I'm grateful to my friend Fraser Shiells for his photo - the speed of everything made it hard to capture, and this moment, when one of the bulls escaped the corralling horses and headed back down the road on its own, was especially dramatic.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Night Piper

Photo ©Ewan McIntosh
Into a random dream, only half-remembered,
dances the noise of -
God, it’s pipes! And it’s
three am and I’ve been sleeping but
I leap from my bed and look 
out and there they are: a man, 
pipes shouldered, marching along
the sleeping crescent playing 
his heart out. And it’s not just the old
Scotland the Brave stuff but
an intricate shifting pattern of notes
and he’s good, good, but
far too loud for my wincing brain.
In front of this marching kilt 
five figures dance
yes, dance,
keeping time as they
make their way past the
dark houses which seem
like me not to have welcomed them
with lights, but they don’t care.
Light on their feet and lightly
rhythmic they pass on and the music sounds
more and more distant as the night 
folds back and sleep floods over
the vacant echoes of the town.


This happened on the only weekend of the year when such things are, in fact, normal - Cowal Games weekend. The poem actually suggested itself to me as I was drifting back to sleep, but I've taken almost a week to get round to putting it down.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

MIners' Gala 1984

I’m riding on a lorry through
the Edinburgh streets. Beside
me is a missile, quite small,
made of cardboard painted
silver. Should be black.
Upturned faces in the sun
stare white; some shout:
Save oor pits, missus
as if this missile
had the power to sweep away
the English government of the day
and blow it back to when
their fathers walked in
heavy boots, pale in the
morning sun and back,
black-faced at dusk
from hellish pits of endless toil
that now would end
and they would miss. And I
and my missile trundle on,
an incidental sideshow
in Thatcher’s Circus 84.

C.M.M 05/12

A sudden memory, triggered by local election talk and the despair of those who feel government cares little for them. This was certainly the case in 1984, the year of the Miners' Strike, after which the mining industry was never the same again. As CND activists we were seen as allies against the Thatcher government, though I felt strongly that in that situation we were merely demonstrating solidarity - for there was nothing we could do about it, any more than the miners whose families lined the Edinburgh streets on that sunny day.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Garden

That night there was no
peace in the garden. The voice
beat randomly and wordless
on the shrinking sense as the flames
flickered irritably in the unseen chill.
The struggling prayer faltered
with each startling blow and
died as the God’s voice dwindled and
withdrew. And when the silence fell
blessedly and the night grew still
it was already over, this riven time,
and the marching feet, the harsher
shouts, the drawn steel glinting
in the dark – to this the prayer had led
and left the silence of the grave.

C.M.M. 04/12

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dali's Christ

 © Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums)
There are no nails
no bonds or blood to mar
perfection. Instead, the figure hangs
beautiful above the flat sea
watched – or ignored – by anachronistic fishermen,
brooding over the water yet
soaring out to embrace
the viewer in the small space
dwarfed by the cosmos that is
the final resting of the crucified.
The humanity is complete,
the only agony visible in the twist
of the arms, the taut sculpture
of tormented shoulders,
but this is God who leaves behind
the tawdry superscription that would
seek to limit him,
this is God who reaches out as
crucifix to dying lips
as benediction to the world
as light into the darkened sky –
stop. Look up. Can you not
feel the wind?

C.M.M. 02/12

Dali's painting, Christ of St John of the Cross, hangs in the Kelvingrove Art Galleries in Glasgow. I grew up visiting it, and wrote this poem after my most recent visit, when I saw it in a fourth new setting. I am indebted to Glasgow Museums for permission to use the image.