Everything has been said that can be said
and what cannot be said
is quenched 
by narcoleptic yawns
The involuntary stretching of limbs 
Decompressing spines 
submitting to invisible gravitational forces
Hunger is driven off 
Cavernous jaws gulp circadian air
Eyelids sliding like wrinkled quilts
The emptying of bowels a ceaseless flotsam tide
Handles turned
Switches flicked
Curtains snapped
Fumbling for the embrace of mattresses
depressed like old friends
The rise and fall of diaphragms 
Tides gone out till morning

© Stuart MacRae 2012



Today I am as flat as paper and exist in one dimension.

The windows are slits as the train spins and spits along oiled, raddled tracks. I've fallen inside the zoetrope, and there are no stops.

If you squint as I pass by, I might come to life. I will seem very real to you, and alive. You will be completely convinced I'm mortal, that hot blood pulses through my inky veins and tumescent flesh. But I'm just an illusion, a figment of your imagination. And mine.

If you reach out and try to touch me, I slip through your fingers like a fortune or the neon glimmer of butterfly wings.

Sometimes I may be visible at the corner of your eye, or in the flaky silver of a broken mirror. If I want to be seen. Like truth, I exist only in glimpses.

When you look for me I'm nowhere to be found. When you don't look, in the excruciating purgatory between going and arriving, I might appear.

The train smashes into sunlight and bends it around thick, myopic glass. Shattered rainbows spill into my hand. I close my fist as tight as I can and squeeze my fingers together, but can't hold on to their spark.

I smile. Perhaps this is how it's meant to be, and how it's always been. Beauty is fleeting; it blooms and decays and its ash feeds the earth.

A cloud rolls towards me and snuffs out the hot reds and insatiable oranges and passionate violets. But it doesn't matter. The secret of light and beauty and truth has been revealed to me again. I remember.

I remember the rainbows are still there even when I can't see them; invisible and secret and magical. They're all around me and inside everything and everyone and everywhere.

This life is a not a prison, but a prism through which I can live.


The Wall

    The sun lights up the wall in front of me, licking its white pebble ice cream.
     It's at least ten feet high, and old, with no openings or doorways.  It's the point of no return; a dead end beyond which the living cannot travel. The kind of wall you can rely on to kill you outright when you drive your car fast enough at it.
     Only ghosts can walk through walls.  That's who I am now.  I live outside of the land hemmed in by this wall.  The walls we have built all around us to keep us safe.  They are labyrinthine; endless, high enough to be seen from space.  It's no use trying to climb up or over, or going around or underneath.
     I want to smash down this wall with my bare fists until they bleed, and this white wall stops being white and becomes bright, coke can red.
     A crumple of metal and a punctured hiss of wheels.  Glass fragments fall on tarmac like tiny bells.  We are dolls thrown on the midden, our heads cracked open like bad eggs.
     I stare, flatlining.  But the wall is no longer solid and flat.  The stone is changing, atom by atom.  I can reach out and put my hand inside it, and feel it move.
     I close my eyes and open them again, thinking I'm deceived by a trick of the light.  I glance at the sun in the sky to make sure it's still there, and not laughing at me, and it is, and it's not. The wall is swaying gently like fronds in a pool.  I can reach into another dimension, or space, or time.
     The secret of the universe is revealed to me.  It's all illusion.  Nothing is real.  Nothing is anything at all.  And if nothing is real then there are no rules or laws or karma or voices in my head telling me I shouldn't or can't or won't or better not.
    I can do anything or nothing.



After tasting the goose-pimpled flesh
of cold turkey
my soul ripples with
intravenous drips

Sense of purpose
Self esteem
Priapic praise

Employment rushes through my veins
like heroin
I pull on cheap suits
a prostitute
paid for salacious services
I will do anything
to satiate this


Palden Choetso

I am tall like the mountains
And brighter
I too stand still
A golden flower

My fire reaches up to heaven
As quiet as a prayer
I fall like a petal
Loud enough to be heard by the world



I just realised
reality died
I didn't notice when it
slipped away
By the time I realised something was
it was
too late

Walking on this Planet

I'm walking

The asphalt under my feet is hot
like treacle
Arizona blue
up above

A soft breeze weaves
between my fingers
I spread
my hands

I’m walking
this planet
Gnarled trees
chattering birds

I’m spreading out like honey
I’m walking
That is



I saw something in the light.

No, that’s not true.  Almost, but not quite.  And when you read the words which follow these words you read now, you will need to carefully consider truth, and what truth is, if you truly want to understand.

Truth might be what you believe, or it may be more accurate to say truth is what you have learned and what you continue to tell yourself, even now.  Your own personal mantra.

You might have reached a state of grace, or evolved to what you perceive to be a higher level or state of awareness.  Nirvana might be something you think you can aspire to; but is that really truth, or just a quieting of the mind; where all further interrogation and questioning has stopped, and doubt has foundered to the smallest, most imperceptible flame, as tremulous and fragile as a sputtering birthday candle? 

Make a wish.  Many happy returns.  Blow.

So when I say I saw something in the light, I’m not being entirely truthful.  I’m being deliberately ambiguous.  Which can mean two or more things.  If life is more simple for you, as simple as being left or right handed, well then I can only apologise.  Sometimes life is not a clear cut as that.  Sometimes life is more - ambidextrous, shall we say.  Both hands may be involved and there is no guarantee one knows what the other one is doing at any given moment, or even aware of the existence of the other.  One may hide behind a convenient back, crossing fingers to ward off evil or to tell a lie without being jinxed.  The other?  Well.  Perhaps best not to go into that here.

No matter how sure you are; how completely positive; how absolutely certain, you simply can’t hold truth in your hand.  You just can’t.  Unless you have an infinite number of hands which can hold an infinite number of truths in an infinite number of moments in an infinite number of universes.  So I'm sorry, I really am, but you will have to decide for yourself if what follows is what you perceive to be true, all the time remembering you might be the only one who believes I saw something in the light.  You and no one else. No one.

But I didn’t see something.  I saw someone in the light.  I think you know who it is.  Yes; the fact is you’ve always known who I saw.  But can you believe it?  Will you?  Do I? 

At the moment I feel very sure.  And yet I’m sure it must be impossible - inexplicable.  But it was so amazing, so magnificent - so incredible I can hardly dare allow myself to think this way because such thoughts must surely lead to madness.  Perhaps you already think me mad.  I rather think you do.

But at the moment I don’t care.  At the moment I’m very sure.  I saw someone in the light. 

It was miraculous.



the sound of steel
whistling over track
horizons flatlining

secondhand smoke
playing peekaboo
behind spineless trees

light flashing on retinas
a tongue of celluloid
licking your brain

Evanescence - a poem

it's funny
spades shovelling
the high-pitched squeal of bare bones

my forehead is hot
my throat burns
to rejoin the world

a crow flick-flacks to a different branch
feathers spread like black ink

laying here
breath rising like a scar from my bed


pale gold lit
the sun has been caged
just for me

unidentified birds trill
yellow and pink rose beds beam like tarts
cheap perfume and tattered petals
powdered up with chalk and arsenic

circling a grotesque fountain
flaking cherubs swivel and aim
tiny bows
eyes blackened like broken dolls

verdigris seahorses rear up
parched and desperate
hot breath foaming from
wild flaring nostrils

Dance of the Dust Devils - a poem

Towers of glass and concrete
imprison forlorn trees.
Fingers of sunshine creep across dark brick,
rough like someone forgot to shave.
Clouds roll
Large, white and lumbering;
puffed asthmatically from a giant engine.

Everything is falling away in Russian doll layers. 
At the centre there might be nothing. 
Or God.

The dead leaves flicker and tremble.
A resurrection waltz
Magicians hurriedly pull down shutters
on paint-flaked caravans.

Face it

Slackening and
growing thin
No longer tight
or bright
to a gravitational pull
This mask
cannot last
A porridgy

Timanfaya - a poem

Close your eyes, he said,
words curling and snapping like a bullfighter’s cape. 
You are on another planet, another world.
I swam in foetal darkness,
eyelids trembling.

I opened my eyes
A veil drew back
Black hematite graves.
All oxygen burned away
taking my breath,
a violation of the earth.

The ground opened as a flower;
hot pollen flowed
The sea roiled and boiled,
a salty orgasm rising
up to extinguish the sun

A wrong turn and we would fall off the mountain.
Impaled on jagged lava,
a writhing, upturned beetle. 


“Close your eyes” said the tour guide, his Spanish accent curling and snapping like a bullfighter’s cape.  “Then open again.  Now see you are on another planet, another world.”

I’m not sure how many tourists on the coach did so, but I followed his instructions willingly, submissively. I wanted to drink in this experience and taste it; swallow it whole.  I closed my eyes and swam in the foetal darkness behind my trembling eyelids.  The coach coughed to a stop in the gravel.

I opened my eyes slowly and allowed the harsh Canarian sunlight to flood back in.  A veil drew back revealing a ravaged, ashen, hematite grave. Angular, black scars carved the exposed landscape, assaulting my eyes like third-degree burns.  This was Hades.  Hell.  Or Mars. All the oxygen in this place had burned away, just as it took my breath now.  Charred wreckage. Carnage incarnate. The lava field spewed across 360 degrees, a violation of the earth.

“In places the broken lava is over three metres deep”.

The volcanoes had risen up and belched fire for almost six years, the ground opening as a deadly flower.  Its hot pollen flowed down the mountains embracing every living thing on this island in a searing kiss of black death. 

Where it touched the fertile plains, it brought sterility.  Where it caressed the sea it roiled and boiled the waves in a salty orgasm rising hundreds of feet in the air.  Where the ashes of this place rose up they extinguished the sun itself.

Our coach jittered along a narrow ribbon cut through this hell, rising precariously.  I felt crushed by the power and magnitude of nature pressing against the windows around me.  A wrong turn and we too would fall off the mountain, impaled on jagged lava the size of cars, like a writhing, upturned beetle. 

“Timanfaya – fire mountain,” said our guide as we exited the coach, witnessing a vista of more than one hundred volcanoes and gaping craters. 

A shovel of gravel was dug and these black pearls poured into our naked palms.  I instantly pulled my hand away, shocked by their heat.  Under your feet temperatures reach nearly 600 degrees, he told us, smiling - a few metres down. 

Welcome to Hell.  My name’s Lucifer, I’ll be your guide today.  I hope you like barbecue.

What were we doing here, I wondered, in this heart of darkness? To experience the unknown, to touch another world?  To run bloody and ragged in this waking nightmare? Fragile, mortal humans morbidly fascinated with death as much as life.

Here, on this island of Lanzarote, death at least has a name.


Fire.  Sex.  Death.  Rock.  Lots and lots of rock.

And roll.  We got back on the coach and our wheels spun slowly, descending, returning us to the land of the living. Exorcising this demonic vision with a thankful prayer and crossing of the heart.  But still knowing, even as we blinked myopically in the fresh sunlight and went on with our lives, that each of us would return one day and lay down in the dirt.


Dance of the Dust Devils

I find myself in a precinct I didn't know existed.  But it must have been there all this time.

Towers of glass and concrete imprison a row of spineless trees.  Fingers of sunshine creep across the buildings but never dip down to where I sit.  The dark brick is rough like someone who forgot to shave.

Clouds roll above me, imperceptibly at first, then fast enough to gauge the direction of the wind.  Large, white, lumbering wild west clouds, puffed asthmatically from a giant steam engine.

A scattering of leaves litter the pavement.  Everything is falling away in Russian doll layers.  Light.  Colour.  Time.  Meaning.  Truth.  At the centre there might be nothing.  Or God.

I see a reflection in the building opposite.  Gradually, I recognise it.  Me.  Or my astral self, a soul trapped behind the glass.  Mute, but waving.  As if to say, "Hi there."

A rush of air whispers in my ear.  The dead leaves flicker and tremble.  I'm witnessing a resurrection.

Slowly, nature reveals its love of curves, bending where concrete cannot.  The leaves begin to waltz.  I'm hypnotised.  They spin around an invisible maypole, a miracle - or the work of the Devil. Magicians hurriedly pack away their paraphenalia and pull down shutters on their paint-flaked caravans.

As one dance ends, the next begins.  More leaves join the throng.  It sounds like an excited audience forcing the letter 'S' through gritted teeth.  It's a twister!  A faint voice cries "Dorothy!"

The leaves rise up in a giddy vortex, spraying out the top of the funnel like confetti.  It's just a moment, I tell myself, one moment; but it feels like infinity.  We're not onlookers or passers-by but witnesses.

It can't end. 

Then it does.


Warning - The Following Page May Contain Strobe Lighting

We all know someone who drew a series of stick figures in their notebook, then said "look!" as they flicked the pages.

Suddenly those small streaks of ink started to move, magically brought to life. And then stopped. Briefly, brightly reanimated to the sound of a deck of cards shuffling. Both a kind of sleight of hand. Created. Conjured.

I feel as if I think most clearly when I'm on a train. It's not a metaphorical train but it works on that level too; either because I'm going somewhere or because I'm alone, or both. The sound of steel wheels whistling over track crowds out the crowd like noise-cancelling headphones.

I can hear me.

I'm on that train now. The sun is setting; I find myself noticing it more, either because it's low in the sky or maybe because I fear death. Time running out. Horizons flatlining. Clouds darkening like secondhand smoke.

It's playing peekaboo behind the trees. Alternately dark and light, a sun both illuminating and silhouetting the sad, spineless trees that always seem to grow beside railway tracks. A solar hypnotist. A charlatan of the senses.

You're feeling sleepy. Very, very sleepy. You close your eyes but you can still feel the light flashing on your retinas. Blood vessels. Floaters. A hair stuck in the gate; a tongue of celluloid licking your brain.

This is the movie of your life. This is the kaleidoscope. These are the deck of cards. This is you blinking. These are the seconds.

You are the stick figure.

Open your eyes.

Wake up.




It's funny, because reality seems so sure of itself, so believable and concrete; but you only have to fall behind one step and it moves on without you.

Summer is like that; it's a joyful carousel of laughter and colour and voices, but it's gone in the time it takes to flick through an old photograph album.

A sepia leaf falls, then another, and another. The merry-go-round slows. Colour bleaches. All that's left are skeletons and echoes. The bare bones. Someone else's life.

It's the same when you're ill. It's gone 9am and everyone is at work, but you're still in bed with a sore throat, or the flu. I hear sounds of the world marching on without me; cars accelerating; spades shovelling; the crunching of gravel and the high-pitched squeal of buses.

My heavy, black curtains frame this soundtrack of perpetual life. I've left the windows open so they can filter in. The sounds are distant and I'm grateful for this momentary peace, even though my forehead is hot and my throat burns. There's still the idea I will rejoin the world outside and evanesce into its reality.

Now it's autumn.

The air is cold and my head is clear. Thoughts linger like breaths frozen as soon as they are expelled. I can almost touch them. There's something about the pale gold of this over-exposed landscape which encourages truth. The seductive prettiness of the flowers and the verdant grass no longer pollinate my brain. Even the clouds are still.

A crow flick-flacks to a different branch, its feathers spreading like black ink.

I lay here for night to come - it will come much sooner now. Tomorrow the sounds of reality will begin again, familiar and reassuring. The clockwork carousel will be rewound.

I'm breathing cut crystal air and rising like a scar from my bed. The sounds are louder and the wind weaves through the trees and their long shadows.

I step back on to the path.



I don’t know about you, but my Bradar has been going crazy of late. I haven’t seen him, but the golden-fleeced one is amongst us, possibly hidden in some kind of Trojan vehicle.  Or more likely a royal blue jag.

Oh, Glasgow! A Brad runs through it, shooting World War Z.  We gather like supplicants at his bronzed temple, unpaid extras jostling behind barriers, craving a glimpse; a wave, a smile or – don’t pass out now – a kiss.  Mad about the Troy.

Oceans of eleven, twelve, nay, more likely two hundred smart phones suck sound and images from the Philadelphia set like tiny, pixellated interviews with the vampire. He’s going to give us the choice we never had and everyone wants a bite. Even shambling Glaswegians emerging from seven years in the betting shop. 

At least George Square is surrounded in glorious nerds, not just Big Issue vendors, drinking in the dystopian scene. Sorry to say there was no sign of Mr & Mrs Smith today, I think they might be making twelve monkeys out of me.

But hey, Glasgow city centre a movie location?

C'est tres jolie!


Staying on the Bus

Have you ever got to the bottom of a staircase and thought there was only one step to go, when in fact there were two?

It's only down a few inches more, but it feels like stepping into an abyss. There's the initial shock and an intake of breath, then a panicked groping for solid ground, and eventually the relief of finding your way.

This is what sudden, unwanted change feels like. For most of my life I've been not just on solid ground but travelling on the bus of life with the pretence of going somewhere fast. Now that bus has broken down.

When that happens we wonder if it's best to get off, and glance anxiously at the driver as if to psychically reveal what's going to happen next. If we stay on the bus, will the journey start again, or will it take longer, removing the comforting illusion of going somewhere? Anywhere.

But if we get off the bus, there are steps to take. Steps down. And there is always one more than you think. That last step, into the unknown.

Into the abyss.