Late Night Company by Laura Guthrie
Late Night Company
(After Edwin Morgan)
Wha’re ye daein – wai’in fur a bus?
Ye ken it’s no fur a half hour?
Aye bu’ it’ll be half an hour, trus’ me.
Fuckin council. Exac’ly…shit...
Ah’m no kiddin…
Ah’m no fuckin kiddin –
Ye check times, an it says five minutes
An hour la’er yer still fuckin wai’in.
Ah saw ye an thought
She shouldnae be out by hursel.
’S no safe, yu ken?
Aye, Ah mean, look at me, Ah’ve bin aroun –
Ah’ve been aroun an the folks ye meet…
(Dinna worry though, Ah’m no one a them.)
But naw, no a good place.
No safe. No safe.
So where’re ye from?
Shit! How’d ye end up here then?
Ah hear ye.
Aye, Ah could tell by how ye speak, ken.
Cus, see you – you use words Ah cannae even understand.
See, that’s clever, whit ye said jus’ there.
Ye go’ a phone?
That’s good. Gonnae call a cab?
Aye, go on then, Ah’ll keep an eye out.
D’ye get through?
Aye, well. Ah’ll wait wi ye. Jus’ in case.
Laura Guthrie’s poem intends to record a particular Glasgow voice. Laura describes the poem as half way poem, half way monologue. She got the idea from studying Edwin Morgan’s work in From Saturn to Glasgow. Although Edwin Morgan’s main poems are in English – he was an expert at making English sound like Scots, using the Scots idiom with perfect ease – he also did some work in Scots. He could hardly not do, with the ear he had for speech.
Laura’s particular character here uses a glottal stop, and she has expressed this with apostrophes, e.g. wai’in, go’. But of course she does not employ apostrophes for the Scots words such as hursel, wi, aroun etc. The habit of using apostrophes as though Scots were an inferior form of English went out of fashion largely through MacDiarmid’s example.
The dialogue here is one sided. It is obvious from the context that the old chap is talking to a young woman who speaks in a more English way, although we don’t hear any of her speech. And we get a clear picture of the speakers – a kind old Scot who is not anti-English, and a young woman who appreciates him. It’s a clever and satisfying use of Glasgow Scots.