This poem isn't at all serious: 'An Author's Lament'. It names several people I know: the poet Hamish Henderson; Agnes Owens, the novelist; Stuart Murray, a postman who is also a cartoonist; my friend and colleague in mural painting, Nichol Wheatley; Alan Richardson, who's an artist and a street cleaner; also a former manager of the Glasgow Byres Road branch of Clydesdale Bank, who plays the bagpipes excellently, or used to.

An Author’s Lament

Everyone over middle age regrets some loss that ageing brings.
My principle regret is this: I’ve never tackled handy things.
Before King Louis lost his head his hobby was repairing locks.
Byron, despite a crippled foot, wrote epics yet could swim and box.
Sir Thomas Brown, Bill Carlos Bill, were medical practitioners.
The Reverend Sidney Smith had skill to doctor his parishioners.
One soldier wrote great words for tunes. (1)
One housewife writes tremendous books.(2)
One postman publishes cartoons.(3)
One mural painter welds and cooks.(4)
One sweeper of streets can etch and paint.(5)
One banker played the bagpipes well.(6)
One fisherman became a saint who holds the keys of Heaven and Hell.(7)
Count Tolstoy emptied chamber pots.
Melville and Conrad sailed the sea.
James Kelman drove an omnibus. No honest toil excuses me.


(1) Hamish Henderson

(2) Agnes Owens

(3) Stuart Murray

(4) Nichol Wheatley

(5) Alan Richardson

(6) Former manager of the Glasgow Byres Road branch of Clydesdale Bank

(7) Peter

uncollected, © Alasdair Gray 2017, used by permission of the author

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