Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: politics

How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, or not, as the case may be.

“An attempt has recently been made on the life of Robert Browning.”


I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
We galloped and galloped, oh Lord how we galloped,
We galloped like billy-oh over the lea.

My steed gave a whinny, Dirck’s ass gave a bray,
As Joris, who rode in the van, cried “I say,
Three riders are galloping – My, how they gallop! –
They gallop like anything, heading this way!”

We held up our gauntlets and shouted halloo,
Demanded “Whence from, lads, and whither go you
Flat out at a gallop? Good grief how you gallop!
Oh please stop your galloping, good gallants, do!”

They reined to a halt and exclaimed, “Mercy sakes!
We’re three men of Ghent, all redoubtable rakes,
Who’ve galloped and galloped and jolly-well galloped,
a-bringing good news to the burghers of Aix!”

We cried, “We’re from Aachen – that’s Aix-la-Chapelle –
And we have glad tidings a-plenty as well.
We’ve galloped and galloped, right manfully galloped –
Supposed to reach Ghent by the Angelus bell!”

One rider from Ghent, with a beard like a Turk,
Said, “Though I’m not known as the fellow to shirk
A jolly good gallop – I love a good gallop –
It seems all this galloping’s double the work!”

I wanted to answer, but Joris said, “We
Could all turn around and be back home for tea.
Oh why don’t we gallop – a rattling gallop –
Let’s all gallop back and have several hours free!

We’ll take up each other’s work; nothing will daunt
The six jolly gallopers out on a jaunt.
Let’s gallop and gallop, mon dieu how we’ll gallop,
We three back to Aachen and you lot to Gaunt.”

I sprang to the stirrup; with whip-cracks and kicks
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all six!
We galloped and galloped, oh Lord how we galloped,
Past such rustic nonsense as hen-coops and ricks.

We galloped to Aix as the rush hour was near,
No thoughts in our minds save for pork pies and beer.
We galloped and slavered – my word how we slavered –
For pork pies and barmaids and lots of good cheer.

We reached a fine inn, and Dirck could not refuse
To galumph right in for a tray-load of booze.
He galumphed for wallop, for gallons of wallop,
And Joris said, “Hey! What about the good news?”

I muttered to Dirck, and then Joris conferred –
The subject? The substance? And so we concurred
We’d galloped and galloped, all bloody day galloped,
But of the good news had forgot every word!

I spoke to the subject: “We’ll gallop to Ghent
The very same way that the other chaps went.
We’ll gallop and gallop, bejabers we’ll gallop!”
But Dirck said, “You’re barmy – our horses are spent!”

I raised my pint Bierstein, and Joris said, “We
Can do that tomorrow. The evening’s still free
To swallow our wallop. Tomorrow we’ll gallop…
…to whatsitsname… billy-oh… over the lea!”


I thought we could do with a reprise of the above piece of nonsense I wrote a few years ago. It will, of course, be lost on anyone who was never forced to read Robert Browning at School, and most of the population of America, who, if they have heard of Ghent, probably think it’s in Columbia County NY.

What have I been up to lately? Not a lot. My poetry blog ticks over, and I have recently written a couple of pieces for my satirical blog. One of the latter is yet another Keats and Chapman story, and the other a short but serious piece about Holocaust denial.

It will soon be 2017. I have no idea what next year will bring. I’m hoping to provide another macabre short story for the ‘Fearie Tales’ event at Pitlochry’s Winter Words Festival, but we’ll have to see. I can’t make any other writing promises, but I will say I’m hoping that my teen-vampire novel KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE will be published. It was finished some time ago and, as I understand it, lacks only a cover design. If you missed the first novel to which KvsV is the sequel – From My Cold, Undead Hand – then now would be an excellent opportunity to read it, or even to buy someone the e-book as a Christmas present.

Marie Marshall – Lady wot writes

Just a little note to say I have revived my occasional blog for humour, politics, and folk dancing.


Considering Racial Dysphoria

Rachel DolezalA couple of weeks ago, I drafted the short post below, but never got round to publishing it. Then, the other day, the controversy over Rachel Dolezal broke out. So I wondered whether this might give me the opportunity, in fact, to address the issue after all. Accordingly I have redrafted it in the light of recent events, and the result is below.

Our current view of sexuality and, more especially, of gender identity is that it is fluid. For example, someone born with all the physical attributes of a girl might, at an early stage or much later in life, feel that a male identity was more in keeping with their psychological and emotional outlook. For some this can be a tenuous feeling, for others it is the strongest indication that they* should take radical steps to correct – as they see it – the mistake of their physical birth-gender. Their first step is often to ‘live as’ a person of the other gender, presenting themselves socially, in appearance and behaviour, as one would expect from a person of that gender, expecting those people-in-the-street who don’t know them, simply to accept what they see. Modern, Western society is increasingly accepting of this fluidity of identity, although the subject still does attract controversy.

I want to ask this question: if gender, then why not other fundamental birth-attributes? Why not race? I can see that you’re shaking your head already, just like we all would have done a few generations ago at the idea that someone could identify with another gender, let alone change theirs to it.

When I was at school in the 1970s, I had a friend who was a James Joyce completist, and if asked for her ethnicity she would say ‘Pseudo-Irish’. I realise that this is a simple question of cultural affinity, and that whether she was by heritage English or Irish she would always be regarded as ‘white’, but on the other hand in these islands the distinction between ‘Celtic’ and ‘Saxon’ was serious, deep, and fundamental. No Irish Nationalist at the time would have seen her as anything but a ‘Brit’. Heads would be shaken at any suggestion that she identify with an ethnicity other than she one she was born and brought up in.

Johnny OtisIn 1921, in Vallejo, California, a son was born to Greek immigrant parents. His name was Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes. His father ran a grocery store in a predominantly African-American neighbourhood. Although his racial heritage was Mediterranean / Southern-European, he identified himself with the African-American community, and lived his life as one of them. He wrote, “As a kid I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black.”

No doubt his Mediterranean complexion and his dark hair helped to give the impression that his heritage genuinely included African, and his familiarity with black culture made it easy to fit in. Nevertheless it was a definite trans-racial identification. As ‘Johnny Otis’ he became a musician and bandleader, and was highly influential in R&B, an essentially African-American genre. As such, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame in 1994.

Johnny Otis’s case was, until recently, exceptional. Incidences of trans-racial identification are far, far rarer than gender dysphoria – until the issues raised by Rachel Dolezal’s covert identification surfaced, the closest I could get was that of Johnny Clegg’s identification with Zulu culture in South Africa. However, when one considers that we are all one species, why should such a thing be a matter for head-shaking? I grant that this would be a problematic issue where there had been extremes of prejudice between the races concerned in someone’s identification – imagine an African-American who today identified as European-American, imagine the resistance to that idea amongst members of both race communities – but even in such scenarios, the overt action of Johnny Clegg and the covert action of Rachel Dolezal may be regarded as politically pioneering.

Seriously, if we ceased to regard matters such as race as fixed – exactly as we now do with gender – would race-hatred gradually lose its relevance in the world? Just think about that for a minute, consider it, ask yourself the question. At some time in the future, will all the opprobrium currently heaped on Rachel Dolezal change, in retrospect, to admiration?


*I’m using the ‘singular they’ throughout; it’s a usage with a long pedigree, and if it’s good enough for Shakespeare it’s good enough for you.

After the revolution

He had been a capitalist of so great ascent that he had once been called a captain of commerce; now such things were put by, and the jut of his jaw was bravado, belied by the glisten of sweat on his forehead. He was genuinely puzzled when we asked him for his secret dream; having taken a few breaths he said he had always wanted to work with wood, to feel the buzz of the grain against his thumb and the satisfaction of pulling a splinter from his finger when the carpentry was done. We found him a job in a boat yard, the period of his employment was inverse to his aptitude. Eventually he found a niche caring for a girl with Down’s syndrome, who came to call him uncle and to love him. There is no success without attempt; things balance eventually. I have heard that often he expressed something like the guilt of a survivor, which he was until he died of a heart attack; he was found in a water closet, the type that is so small that you have to rest your elbow in the hand-basin and gaze into the mirror. There would have been no pain.


The online literary magazine qarrtsiluni is currently publishing poems in a series themed imitation. The entry for 7th May is my O great maritime bears, which is an emulation of poet Lisa Jarnot. The theme of imitation continues to the bio note which is an imitation of a telegram by the artist Balthus. From the qarrtsiluni site you can download a podcast of the poem, read by Dani Adomaitis.