Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Four years ago, the NTS asked me to write a monologue inspired by a picture in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
I chose this - 'Poet's Pub' by Alexander Moffat - and I gave voice to the faceless woman sitting on the left hand side.
It was beautifully performed by Sally Reid at the time and then, later that year, not so beautifully performed by me in pro-Independence rallies.
A dear friend has aksed to read it because she says it sounds important still.
And I think so too...
Nothing dear about you Scotland. You vile country.
You with your cold dark days.
You with your rain that stings my face
You with your hard grey streets, your dirty windows
You with your niggardly closed off minds.
You with your instinct to cut everyone down to size
You who find it so hard to praise anyone or anything.
You who always want to fail
Because you’re frightened of succeeding.
Always happier for things to go wrong
So you can blame someone else for it.
I hate you Scotland.
I hate your poets.
Look at them. So-called alpha males.
Look at them talking talking talking.
They never stop. Never.
Look at the way they toady up to that old man
Or say vile things about him behind his back
That old man with his filthy pipe and his tartan scarf
Praising Lenin and the power of the people
Declaiming all the time in that ridiculous made-up language of his
That’s supposed to be Scots but which no-one can understand
He looked up words in the dictionary and he learned them off by heart
Not because he wanted to communicate but because he wanted to impress and intimidate.
And them in their pecking order all about him.
Look at them. Bunch of pricks.
Not that their pricks are up to much.
I know because I’ve had most of them inside me,
Waggling about or pumping up and down
Up and down up and down in the dreariest kind of way
And then me afterwards smiling saying you were wonderful
It was a skill I had.
And they all loved me for it, and the way I moaned
And that’s why I’m painted naked with my red stockings on
To show that I’m available.
But then see how it’s also kind of hidden that I’m naked because that. dear Scotland,
That’s just the way you feel. Just the way you feel about sex,
Kind of furtive and ashamed, and the way you feel about feelings too.
Why you will keep drinking just to blank them out.
You’ve blanked us out too, dear Scotland, kept us at the edge of things
Me and Liberté and Jenny in the courtyard
Not even bothered to paint our faces and denied us names.
So it’s the names, Scotland, it’s the names I’ll tell you first:
Liberté’s name is Marie Deschamps and she fought on the barricades
And that’s Jenny in the courtyard.
And I’m Stella and I belong in the stars.
Jenny’s dead now. She worked the streets to support her child
And she was a better human being than the whole lot of you.
You with your fine words and your frightened hearts.
You’d have used her for your furtive pleasures only she made you pay.
But me I gave it you for nothing.
I let myself be used.
Don’t judge me for that, Scotland, because you’re the same.
You’ve made yourself available
You’ve let yourself be colonised.
They’ve colonised your resources and they’ve colonised your minds
And then you believe them, Scotland, when they tell you you’re no good
And can’t be trusted to run your own affairs.
That’s why the Scotland I lived in was so very small.
Why I’m the same, Scotland, the same as you
Why I let myself be despoiled
Why I wrote my poems in the darkness
And never let them come to light.
That’s why I drank myself to death.
But it doesn’t have to be this way
Don’t believe them when they tell you so
the squalor of alcohol
defeat and failure, Scotland,
the resigned and twisted bitterness
That’s not for you.
The old man wasn’t altogether wrong, Scotland,
When he said poetry should be at the centre of your life.
I loved him once. I loved them all.
Maybe I wouldn’t say poetry
Maybe I’d say love
Maybe I’d say creativity
Maybe I’d say they should be at the beating heart of things.
Whatever. I won’t argue.
But don’t leave me at the edge, Scotland.
And don’t deny my name. Acknowledge me.
I don’t mind being naked. I refuse to be ashamed.
But right now, Scotland, when school children notice that I have no clothes
They get hurried on.
You see, Scotland, you’re still so prudish when it comes to sex.
But your children should be fearless, unashamed.
Don’t perpetuate abuse and shame.
Don’t believe them when they tell you there is no other way
Don’t believe them when they tell you they cannot help committing crimes.
They’re wrong. They’re very wrong. There is another way.
I was gifted, Scotland.
I was different, Scotland.
I laughed. I danced
I loved my body and I loved to live.
Yet I destroyed myself because there was no place for me.
I was clever when there was no space for women’s cleverness
So I drank myself stupid and I felt ashamed.
Don’t be ashamed, Scotland
Don’t be ashamed to be women
Don’t be ashamed to be men
Don’t be ashamed to be people of both genders or of none
Listen to those of us who don’t fit in. Cherish your outcasts.
Because on that day, Scotland,
That day you’ll build the road to freedom.
That day freedom will be at the centre of your picture
And the face she’ll wear will be your own.
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