Stranger things

This beautiful poem by John McIntosh was sent to me after John met the dug, and me too, at James Dornan’s fundraising event in Cathcart Bowling Club earlier this month. As today is the anniversary of the first independence referendum, and as we anticipate another, I thought it was the perfect occasion to share it with you.

Airson Pòl agus an cù
by John McIntosh

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

Even while I waited by
the side of that canal in Elx,
the night heat a weight,
me turning circles in the grass,
I knew he would come.
I just had that feeling, y’know?
Like I was destined to be someone.

Imagine. A chucked-oot mutt like me,
Daring a dream like that.
Kidding yersel’ on, they say here.

Mind you, what’s fur ye ‘ll no go by you.
That’s another thing they say.

Alone there in those nights I saw it all:
the silver star-bridge arching overhead;
the moon’s lamp swung between horizons;
sparks glowing in the eyes of swimming rats.
Autopista headlight flashes, growling cars.

I waited there for weeks.
People threw me scraps.
Someone took a picture.
I was patience, and waited.

Till suddenly at last it changed, when Andy
saw me in a dream, told Paul about me.
My picture flashed up on his screen –
he knew me right away. How could he not?
Phones rang.
And for the first time I was taken home.

And then I went home for a second time,
To this grey north, where gingers just like me
parade around as if they own the place.

And here I am, two thousand miles later,
lying at his feet in Cathcart Bowling Club,
while he describes that other dream he has:
how independence
starts in the mind;
how what we see
in Shettleston is not normal;
how a new Scotland is waiting.


Aye well, I wouldn’t know anything about that.
I’m just a ginger dug who likes being taken in the car
And being fed sandwiches by smiling strangers.
I’m not that into politics you see.
And English is my third language after all.
(Well actually my fourth, if you count Dug,
which I’m sure you do).

But three things I do know:
where and what I was; where and what I am;
and the fact you never know.

If Andy could dream me alive,
if I can be dreamed alive, wake up one day
wide–eyed in some new world, then maybe
you can too.

Stranger things have happened.
Another thing they say.

It’s getting late. He’s signing things.
My eyelids droop. Been a long night.
If I start to twitch and whimper,
know that in my dreams I’m back there
lying next to that canal, swivelling
ears towards the distant growling cars.

And me (and you, and all of us) still waiting.


Turning circles.

Seeing stars.

48 comments on “Stranger things

  1. Marion Scott says:

    What a beautiful poem by John McIntosh. Very moving and I’m sure the dug agrees with every word.

  2. Oor Mike McBot says:

    Brings a wee tear to the eye – thankyou

  3. Anne Martin says:

    Lovely poem and lovely pic of the handsome Wee Ginger Dug.

  4. mogabee says:

    Heartrendingly beautiful and WOW having a poem, a real, honest-to-goodness poem written about you!

    Such a lucky dug. 😀

  5. cameronmgb says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. An absolutely beautiful poem.

  6. rosemarymee says:

    That is just beautiful. It made me cry.

  7. crabbitgits says:

    Gonnae no dae that! Jist. Gonnae no.

  8. Wilma Berry says:

    The poem is lovely. You should write a book of them.

  9. Walt Hopkins says:

    Wow!! Brought the tears of meaning to my eyes.

    Thank you!

  10. Mags says:

    That was a beautiful poem! Greetin!

  11. Lisa Smith says:

    Lovely!…very touching

  12. heathermclean19 says:

    Wow! Just beautiful and such a lovely thing to do.
    Written by another wordsmith like yourself.
    What a talented bunch we Scots are!

  13. chicmac says:

    Great poem.

    By coincidence I came across another great poem yesterday, or was it this morninng, by(I think) someone calling himself Mo’Flo’Mojo although he may have pasted it from elsewhere.

    It is quite long but well worth a read IMO.

    A declaration

    I am a Pictish child
    who starved to death
    after our crops were burned
    by some well-fed warlord
    to intimidate another
    in whose praise the bards
    first elevated speech to poetry,
    in the Age of Arthur, long ago.
    They never sang a song for me.

    I am a child of Dalriada
    who perished in the pestilence
    which the saints told us God sent
    to punish us for the sins
    described in their Vulgate
    and by their desert fathers,
    sins which explained our misery.
    But I was happy until they came.

    I am the infant daughter of MacWilliam,
    brains bashed out against the mercat cross
    one dreich day in Forfar:
    a lineage extinguished, a dynasty defunct,
    to throttle the bifurcations of history
    as had been publicly proclaimed in advance.
    But what do I know of ambition?

    I am the nameless child
    ripped from its mother’s womb
    in the streets of Berwick
    after the three days of its siege and sack
    before the flower of our chivalry were captured
    at Dunbar, and the country fell,
    and the chronicler recorded how the manner of my death
    seemed to exceed even the most medieval of excesses,
    and prompted churchmen to ask a king
    to call a halt to the atrocities.

    I and my twin brother were miscarried
    before we could be baptised,
    dying along with our mother
    in the smoke and straw and turmoil
    as the blazing thatch collapsed
    when they burned us out
    to clear the land for sheep.

    I took my last breath
    before I could speak my first word
    when I succumbed to tuberculosis
    in the slums of the Calton.

    And since you exported these extravagant atrocities
    that you had practised on each other
    in the narrow corridor of our Scottish centuries
    to fulfil some broader civilising duty you say God ordained,
    I am the American child skewered by a sabre
    as I fled the cavalry, running between our lodges
    while my people’s land was seized to satisfy your cupidity,
    – or rescued from our savagery, as you would have it –
    to submit to the grim teleology of commerce,
    the plough, and the long-horned herds of alien ungulates
    that replaced the buffalo you machine-gunned to extinction
    from the trains you dispatched across the metal web
    you spun across our prairies,

    that grim teleology that dictates
    the dark declining climate of our fates:
    that everything is just a means to an end,
    in which the end of everything awaits.

    I am a child taken from its mother’s arms by the sea
    and drowned as we seek these less hostile shores as refugees,

    and the very language in which my mother named me,
    whose lilt and grace animated my now forgotten name
    has itself been forgotten.

    I am silence.

    I am that mute substratum of your loud history
    that has no voice. I am that bloody backdrop
    to your every great exploit. I am the sawdust
    swept from the stage before the curtain is raised
    and you step forth to perform your epic and inspiring tale.
    I am every untold story lingering in the interstices of your syllables.
    I am the ghost that convects and coils through the shafts of light
    that project your favourite blockbuster onto the silver screen.
    I am every blank page, every pause, every unseen presence
    loitering at the back of the darkened auditorium.

    But I will be heard now, and it is not for honour
    – for what honour is there in being a victim of history,
    in being the silt and ashes which settle in unseen anoxic depths,
    to form the compacted layers upon which the future struts –

    nor for glory – for what glory is there
    in being disposed of and stamped down and ignored,
    suffocating under wasted generations in the landfill of history –

    nor for riches – for there no recompense for annihilation,
    no coin that compensates for my enforced absence –

    that I speak up, but for freedom
    – freedom to be born, freedom to grow,
    freedom to learn and love and know
    the rain and sun and wind and snow,
    the seasons turn and years unfold –

    for freedom, yes, and that alone,
    which no good man gives up but with his life.
    The same freedom which I never gave up,
    but which was taken from me, with my life,
    when I became a victim of your history,

    and I call on you now for restitution,
    for resurrection, for restoration, of my dignity
    in the dignity you seek to establish for yourselves.
    Give your riches to the beggar. Place that coin
    in the hand held out where mine has been held back,
    and find your glory in the insignificance you embrace,
    your honour in the ego you erase. This is my declaration:

    make this Scotland, and the world it is in,
    a monument to the dignity of all
    in commemoration of those who were granted none.
    Make this Scotland, and the world it is in,
    memorable for the best of reasons,
    in memory of those forgotten for the worst.
    Cultivate the anonymous ashes of the past
    to bring forth a blossom so fragrant with freedom
    that its celebration effaces my anonymity,

    and let there be no more victims of history
    in the future you begin to write today
    on the first page of this,
    my declaration.

    • Stunning account of real history, why Scotland HAS to gain her own voice.
      Native Americans, Australians- the fourth world of native peoples – in every continent all over the world… we have common cause with them…. for it continues … the hammering of people, land and sea …. by a wicked system. When they came to turn the main island in Orkney into a Uranium Mine in the 1970s, Native Americans and Native Australians- having already had their lands and water poisoned in this way- came to Orkney to help. Once we have an independent country, we can start to help them too.

      • chicmac says:

        Aye, its like the buses, you wait for ages and then three things gar ye greet in as many days, John’s poem above and this ‘anonymous’ one and Amanda Brown’s ‘miss mash’ of Caledonia and Stanley Od’s ‘Letter’ at the Hope over Fear rally.

  14. Macart says:

    This room has way too much dust. 🙂

  15. astytaylor says:

    Stranger things: absolutely bloody marvelous, and a great photo too.

  16. Lovely poem, Paul. I still remember Andy’s other dream.

  17. Alistair Robertson says:

    Bravo Sir! {wipes a tear as he stands and applauds}

  18. cathie says:

    I’ve met you both and that poem is so beautiful.

  19. Stan Wilson says:

    Ma heart is still thumping……..

  20. Love and Hope. Beautiful.

  21. Mary Murray says:

    S beautiful poem. It’s made me cry!

  22. diabloandco says:

    Great poem and what a handsome dug!

  23. Donald MacDonald says:

    I’m in hospital following near kidney failure, catheterised and facing who knows what road to recovery. And they’ve stopped my antidepressants, so I’m pretty emotional anyway. But my, that is a beautiful poem. Sobbing.

  24. Gavin C Barrie says:

    Upping the ante, with two beautiful poems – an abandoned dog, an abused nation, that can do more to stir the imagination and aspiration than all the political speeches.

  25. Petra says:

    Two fantastic inspirational poems. Absolutely brilliant. What more can one say?

  26. Toni Young says:

    That’s a lot of emotion for the end of my evening. I’ve got a huge lump in my throat, between those two poems. Off to bed now to dream of a better future.

  27. Gaelstorm says:

    Thanks for sharing the beauty and the love

  28. Margaret McQuade McAuslan says:

    Stranger Things, by John McIntosh is beautiful. I would love to know who wrote, a Declaration.

  29. Linda Nairn says:

    I don’t usually leave a comment, but that was beautiful

  30. Patsy says:

    I’m glad I don’t wear mascara as it would now be running in torrents. What a gorgeous poem. Thank you for sharing it.

  31. Michael Flynn says:


  32. Mary doc says:

    Hauf nine in the mornin…greetin..lovely phrase from walt..the meaning of tears.goes ye strength.

  33. socratesmacsporran says:

    The poem aboot the Dug, and the yin in the comments – aye, no bad! They’ll dae.

  34. Alba woman says:

    I have met the dug and he is indeed very handsome and very sociable

    Such a beautiful poem full of wonderful images and above all hope. Thank you.

  35. Marie Gray says:

    Beautiful, simply beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s