Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 309

Sunday Sounds (A Sequence)

Sunday Sounds

Sunday sounds were subtle, sleepy, soothing.
Where was that grim, day of shops-shut gloom
angry Scottish writers claim to remember?
I never knew it. Just a slow, soft peace
broken by church bells and the clatter
of footballs on concrete.  If there was a sense
of dread, it was that the weekend was ebbing.
School tomorrow.

Few cars then, especially on a council scheme.
You really heard spring bird-chatter, the
lazy summer insect-buzz and the wicked hiss
of Dunbartonshire rain. The whisper of breeze
through the plane tree at our back door
was silenced when it became firewood
during the miners’ strike.

At six a tremulous chime shimmered across town,
a subtle melody that seemed to come from the sky.
A recording, not struck from living metal,
it still spoke of cold stone abbeys, cloisters
and monk-murmured Latin. ‘It’s the Angelus,’
our Catholic friends told us.
‘It means God will come, has come.’

Weekday Sounds

Workdays began with hooters filling the same space
the Angelus had taken up, calling people
to the factories. Our windows hummed and
shook as the local bus thundered past.
Foundry roaring as liquid iron was alchemised
into telephone boxes and bus shelters and bandstands.
The fire siren wailed, a sound all longing and loss.
Older faces grew serious with remembrance.
The same siren had heralded bombers groaning,
heavy with death, towards Clydebank.

Goods trains, metal fire dragons, belched hot
steam and smoke with an animal gasping
while toy green diesel passenger trains passed,
silent and smooth, gently farting exhaust fumes.
The teams emerged at Adamslie Park with the clatter
of studs on cement. We followed the hollow impact
of boot on ball or shin, shielding our eyes from
the low winter sun and roaring when our team scored.

New Sounds

The trains have gone. The foundry is silenced.
Adamslie Park is no more. If the Angelus still beckons,
it’s drowned by traffic and the thudding of dance beats
spilling from pubs and clubs. Today’s young people
will never hear these sound-signals. Yet I arrived too late
to hear the clatter of colliery winding gear
or the surf-splash as new-built boats slipped
into the canal.

Our world will always change. So will the sound it makes.


David McVey

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