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Thi Sorry Day by Sally Evans

11th July 2016

This is a political poem, written directly after the Brexit vote. It was published promptly on the webzine New Boots and Pantisocracties, edited by Dundonian poets Bill Herbert and Andy Jackson. New Boots was started after the last election and is currently publishing a daily poem on post-Brexit politics.

This was the first poem I had written in Scots, although I have obviously read a great deal of Scots poetry and am familiar with the language being spoken in my home and at my daily work. Because it had a simple message, the poem lent itself to Scots. It is a beauty of Scots that this sort of language sounds genuine and heartfelt rather than old-fashioned and unworked, as it can seem in the more sophisticated, even hypocritical English. It’s a demotic piece, speaking for the people, and Scots seemed right for it. It starts with an obvious reference to the Selkirk Grace. 

My Scots tends to be from Dunfermline and Fife. I use thi for the from the precedent of WN Herbert. It’s a Dundee sound and it fits in this piece, which also contains many words prevalent in Fife, haud, heid, toun, and which also have wider usage, in the central cities and Ayrshire. Meanwhile my spelling of freens, dees, come from Aberdeenshire via my association with Sheena Blackhall.

I use and, an and n variously for different emphases, and I have also used both world and warld, and am not tempted to tidy them into one spelling –  so much depends on the sounds of each phrase, and in Scots we have the creative ability to write like this. Not everyone agrees with me, but I think the coherence of orthography will work itself out with time, based on the practice of the best writers.

In the line the warld wis lookin tae be one, I considered other versions of one: yin, ane, wan, but decided none of the others gave the sense of wholeness required.
Thi Sorry Day by Sally Evans
Some hae nae meat sae canna eat,
but we sit on oor brae
enjoyin meat an fruit an sweet,
an we kin only pray
fir cousins, brothers, wives an freens
in Ingland far away
queuein fir breid an medicines
wi shrinkin coin to pay.

We wish it wisnae comin nou
n they hidnae voted in
austerity an lawless rue
n gun rule threatenin,
wi desperate mobs n gangs o louts
aw jobless, weak an thin,
yellin it thir brethren
fir the colour o thir skin.

O come back sun n sanity,
preserve thon hope-filled day
when men and women’s vanity
could venture oot tae play,
when freens linked hands in happy bands
across thi narrow seas --
the warld wis lookin tae be one
till thi last human dees.

It isna easy findin hope
when hope is snatched away,
nor simple tae haud up yir heid
in a world sae glum n grey. 
The privileged hae selt the lave
in aw thi sorry toun,
an bells toll nou fir thon sad day
snarlin ayont thi gloom.