ALP : The Adult Learning Project,
Edinburgh


Poems, stories, and monologues from our wonderful Aye Writers!


To Be a Saint

So hard to be a saint,
It's obvious that I ain't.
But would I wish to be?
You'll need to wait and see.

Mr Nobody is mostly unseen.
No-one knows whether he's kind or mean.
He creeps around without a sound
So is he coming or has he been?

New deities have to be better
Than the old and familiar gods
Who with notable exceptions
Were a load of vicious old sods.

© Sylvia Trotter.



The Old Girls’ Sunday Lunch

Fenella’s missed the bus. She’ll catch the next.
Meantime, I sit upstairs and watch the town
sail by from Tollcross through to Morningside,
to Comiston and green Midlothian fields.
 
It’s spitting rain today, the sun’s on hold.
We’d planned to have our Sunday lunch outside
then stroll up Blackford Hill to view the town
spread out before us like an aging hoor.

But Scotland’s summer is forever thrawn.
You can rely on it to disappoint.
Even in anoraks and pacamacs
we find the outside tables too damned cold.

Instead we huddle in the gloomy bar
and chomp our way through haddock, chicken wings,
and steak and kidney pie. To follow there’s
ice cream all round in goblets with long spoons.

We walk to Klondyke for our coffee though –
their restaurant’s very pleasant, good tray bakes,
and cheaper than the pub. I buy a plant,
a Grumpy, to remind me of our day.
 
We linger for an hour or so and chat –
we’ve nebulous plans to go to France or Spain –
until, with nothing settled, we must part
and rush home for the telly and the cats.
 
Thank God I’ve got away. The company
of Old Girls can be tiring. I nod off.
Awaking with a jerk at Lothian Road, 
I leave the fuchsia underneath the seat.

 
© Hilary Birch



The Sacred Melodies of Old Earth

I am on a train journey through Heaven – a province of Scotland. My strife-torn
homeland is now a fading dream as I sit beside appreciative companions and Alan
Moelwyn-Wright, the illustrious Welsh philanthropist. This is a chartered
special train pulled by a steam locomotive as old as myself – sixty-seven. I
hear traditional Scottish tunes played very softly and they move me to tears as
the train canters along through fantastic scenery. I gaze out to view vistas of
snow-capped mountains with cloud swirling below their summits and, from time to
time, I snap a view with my Zenith.
 
The train has to stop on a lofty viaduct for some reason and I see cloud below it,
billowing up and take photo after photo. Now it moves off and I observe mighty
waterfalls tumbling from the mountainsides and a wild river that empties into
an island-choked gulf called the Sound of Skaravaig. Wow! I am having to
reload, so I do so in time to resume shooting as the sun peers out of a
cloudbank and a wind rocks the train. This is the most beautiful of possible
countries! Shadows advance, the sun sinks below the horizon and the western sky
becomes luminous with pink and gold and vibrant midnight blue as the train
waits to pass others at wayside stations and I have ample time to compose views
of this fantastic landscape. All the while that music drifts through the train
and I cannot put into words my heightened perception and joy.

Ahead I see Skaravaig, the most fabulous city of Scotland, on its flotilla of islands.
Prominent on the horizon, the Temple of Poseidon graces the summit of a
miniature mountain. It is an exact replica of the one at Cape Sounion near
Athens. The guidebook explains how it and Skaravaig were built by an English
philanthropist called Ralph Cheney-Boyce in the Napoleonic period. Now the
train draws to a halt in the station with colonnades that deliberately imitate
the Parthenon. We file out and into the streets of Skaravaig to inhale the
sea’s invigorating aroma. Over a bridge we go and then across a square lined
with classical-style buildings and up a steep path to the temple.

Moelwyn-Wright and the Gods have contrived this sunset for me to enjoy. The musicians continue
to play as we gather in the temple to enjoy the afterglow in the skies and on
the waters. Below us spreads Skaravaig with streetlights on and I reflect upon
Moelwyn-Wright’s gift to Mankind, his Universal Rational Moral Code called
Contributionism which he puts into practice by organising this event and
arranging for my indefinite stay in Skaravaig to work for the Treaty of Venice
commission who care for the city. Could ever the warlords who are wrecking my
country in the name of Christianity or Islam grasp the fundamental tenets of
Contributionism?

We who grace the Temple are a Godbrain. I am an incandescent Spirit, a vessel of God
who joins in the singing in English, although I cannot understand much of the
lyrics. Contributionism has turned its back upon the sterile dogmas of all the
institutionalised religions. It focuses on the future when the sons and
daughters of earth migrate to distant solar systems to sire progeny for whom
wrongdoing becomes laughably absurd. Contributionism’s cardinal teachings
enjoin everybody to develop all their latent abilities and so create ourselves
in the image of God. Its functional prohibitions make sense. All
self-stupefying behaviours and stupefaction of other people constitute
blasphemy, the destruction of the God within anybody. Contributionism
cultivates the God and the Good within people. That I know after I have changed
into a Radiant Spirit since I set foot in Scotland.

So we Contributionists, who proudly wear ties showing the Heraldic Dragon of Wales,
wings outspread, with glasses and bowler hat which allegorises that tall Welshman,
Moelwyn-Wright, affirm that we have created ourselves by our deeds – and
disseminate by our deeds, our principles of behaviour.

We declare that we humans are the seed of all those diverse phyla of intelligent
beings that will colonise planets of distant solar systems.

That they shall build temples like this one, on headlands overlooking seas, beside
cities as beautiful as Skaravaig, where people will gather at dawn and sunset.

So the Cosmos becomes incandescent with laughter and joy and Meaning in all the ages
to come when all the stars shall sing to one another as our descendants play
the sacred melodies of old Earth.
 

© David Seagrave



The Two Faces of Janus

Janus sits on the cusp of time
as last year slides into the next.


The pendulum swings to and fro
yet the minute hand advances;
our steps never to be retraced
in spite of routines and habits
carried forward like profits and losses
of life’s annual balance sheet.

As we ponder days gone by,
weigh up achievements … and failings,
we review old New Year resolutions
before committing to new ones,
and scan astrological charts
for calmer seas, hope on the horizon.

Tipping the carefully poised
see-saw into the New Year, we trudge
up the steep slope of January,
yet, with Spring around the corner,
Janus shows his other face
and 
smiles.


© Barbara Munro



Jo Cox is Dead

Jo Cox is dead
What good is a hero?
They’ve celebrated her life
As an M.P. and a wife,
But will they heed
her example – 
A woman who literally
cared for others
Worked abroad with
children and mothers
Has left her daughter
and son without one
Because a man with a
gun took her life.
Will she be forgotten
when the fuss dies down?
Will they follow her?
Think what she stood up for
And carry on the good work
She did?
Or just put her on a pedestal?

© Anne Milne



The Burning

Backed  against a tree, struggling to see in the darkness, a Gazelle under one foot, I
gave myself a right good telling off.  “If you had paid more attention to the time or had the eyes of a cat
you'd be safely back in the cave right now. No, you just had to follow that herd of gazelle so far and too
long.  Now it is so dark you can't see your way home.”  At the sound of rushing
feet and husky breath I raised my club ready to face the danger the sounds
heralded.  In some relief I almost felt the death-scream and the roar that spoke of a close and successful
hunt.  It also made me think, “That is how near I came to be food instead of proudly bringing
back food.  At least now I can feel a whole lot safer.  Hungry hunters and prey
will not come round here tonight.”

It began to rain.  There was a thunderous roar, backed to that tree I smiled.  “I'm
going to be safe enough, only the very weak and hungry hunt when it rains this
hard.”  That happy feeling was almost immediately washed away by the sight of a
streak of very bright light that struck and split apart a nearby tree.

 A branch, alone and burning, lit up the darkness so well all I could say was, 'oh wow,' as
I saw a big cat snarl fearfully at the burning before it dragged its meal away and out of sight.  


I was surprised to be able to see so much more than I had ever seen in the dark
of night.  It then it struck me that the burning branch could be used to show me the
way home and I thought, “I'd rather be wet and alive than food for some predator.”
First though I saw I had to make a choice.  As I only had two hands I saw it had to be
Gazelle and light or club and light. There was more need of food than possible
dangers waiting to be faced so I left the club behind.  

Decision made I left my shelter and grasped the branch. 
It felt unbearably hot until, holding it as high as I could, made the
burning easier to bear but I was right. The light did let me see the way I
needed to go if I was to get to safety. 
I saw landmarks that pointed the way home as I loped along gazelle under
one arm.  As I am a thinker free to think; it struck me, 'in the cold dark cave
this can let us sit round it, in a circle, seeing each other and being warmed by it.'
Almost home I saw that burning consumed the wood and as it shrunk I
wondered could this be kept burning up a new piece of 
wood.
Wet wood didn't work but finding a dryer piece did let the burning be passed on. 

I smiled when my thought was proved to be right. 
On the run for home, I had worked out that the burning gave off its best
light and warmth when it was a central fact. 
As I approached the cave that new stick was so much shorter but still burned
brightly and I saw how this might be seen as scary so I called ahead, “It is
just me but I am bringing light and heat into the cave. Can someone go out and
bring in as much dry wood as you can carry?” 
That 
let me hand over the Gazelle and the burning so that I could scoop out a hole
in the middle of the cave.  


Into that hole I carefully transferred the burning and added some of the new
wood.  The family all saw how each new bit burned alongside the first piece and
gave off a comfortable light and heat. 
There were smiles aplenty when all sat round 
this warming light and as questions were asked, I explained “I am not the creator of your
good fortune, just someone lucky to be alive, in the right place at the right time, able to find
his way in the dark and see how we can all gain from this burning.”  As part of that 
story-telling
I told how I had seen the ferocious big cat flee from the 
burning.  I suggested, as that
predator feared the burning this might help keep the family safe as well as warm and able
to see more than was usual.   At that, a family friend said, “I should be going home but it is dark
and I might get
lost.  Can I have a burning stick to see my way home?”  It was agreed and as I
handed it over, I reminded them, as they had seen how to feed the burning, it should
never be allowed to go out because I did not know how to cause it to 
burn.  Even after a few weeks
all agreed 
keeping this find burning was a small price to pay for taking their turn to go
out to gather wood when the reward was light warmth and safety.   Little did I or anyone else
know just how 
far reaching this burning was going to be and what it could do for us, but
already it was becoming a ‘must have’ thing for all of us.


© Alex J Anderson



Winter


Winter comes with snow and sleet;
If you haven’t got your wellies,
It wets your feet.

Snow looks great in a Christmas card,
But when it freezes and becomes hard,
You slip and slide all over the place,
And once I fell flat on my face.

The winter for me can melt and go;
The last thing I want is any more snow.
Oh come on Spring and the buds of May
So I can see the snow melt away.


© David Bain






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