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Bob Mercer by Thomas Clark

7th August 2017


Football poetry is getting quite an airing at the moment, with a new football poetry book just launched in Glasgow. Thomas Clark is a lively Scots contributor to the football book – he became Scotland’s first Football Poet in Residence with Selkirk FC. But his poetic inspiration in Scots goes much wider than football. Bob Mercer is a poem about the 1914-18 war, about a returning “hero”, a concept which he questions with his hard Scots sense. And what does it mean to be “lucky” in this context?

Using a man’s name, whether this is some remembered relative or neighbour, or fictional, gives the poem more conviction, and the repetition of ‘ane o the lucky yins’ adds power to the poem –there are so many possible responses to such an off-the cuff remark. As we read it, we remember, if we are old enough, these men who returned half wrecked from their experiences. What is lucky about the fate of the infantry? 

Thomas Clark has a number of books in Scots under his belt and his work has been praised by such critics as Matthew Fitt and Rob Mackenzie. It is time that such poets were recognised more in the wider world. 

Bob Mercer by Thomas Clark

Bob wis ane o the lucky yins
which is tae say
when he cam back it wis
wi gas in his kist insteid o shrapnel
a tightenin wreath o poison roon his hert
Bob wis ane o the lucky yins
which is tae say
he cam back at aw
led the boys oot bi the watter,
pullt oan the shirt jist ane mair time
Bob wis ane o the lucky yins
which is tae say
it wis anely his freends that died
cut doon on fields at Ypres an the Somme
thair jerseys hingin empty fae the peg
an it wad be poetry tae say
he hung oan in there, or
he waitit until he wis hame
but it widnae be right
senseless at Ettrick Park as onywhaur
that ane death
or ony o them
he just got lucky
but then
Bob was aye ane o the lucky yins

Thomas Clark