WORK SHY A man I knew who had always been employed often snarled at a neighbour who had never worked a day in his life. Neither have you, I once told him. And it was true, though he’d be the first to tell you, ‘I’ve never been on the broo.’ THE LAW Mother laid down the law – don’t be selfish, don’t be greedy, share all your toys. Decades later, she cast a new light on men and boys exposing cracks in the clear line she’d always drawn between right and wrong. A politician on TV, criticising the ‘something for nothing culture’ refused to answer a question: ‘What’s your opinion of corporate tax havens?’ Mother answered for him – ‘Well, it’s not against the law, is it son?’ Lines were marked across the ring in early boxing matches in the days when a knockdown, not a bell, concluded a round. If a pugilist could not "toe the line," or come “up to scratch," he was ruled Out of Time. To deter members of opposing parties from attacking one another in the House of Commons two red lines were marked, two sword-lengths apart, on the floor. MPs were and are expected to stand behind these lines when a speech is in progress. LINE DRAWING Emerging from Southwark Station, looking for Tate Modern, I imagined this area back when bear-baiting and cock fighting were common, and actors strutted their hour at the Globe. Stumbling on The Ring Boxing Club, I thought, how appropriate a space to exhibit the noble art should be so near the Tate. Then, a second thought that was more of a picture: Two Ton Tony Galento, a boxer from the thirties who trained on beer and refused to shower weeks before a fight; who, according to Max Baer, stank “like rotten tuna and old liquor sweated out;” who, when asked what he thought of Shakespeare, said, “I’ll moider da bum!” A hairy bear of a man, Two Ton Tone applied gouging, biting, butting, low blows and kidney punching to what some call the sweet science, others, the noble art. In black and white footage of him he brightens the screen like a cartoon. The owner of a New Jersey saloon, I saw him clearly in London four hundred years ago, betting on a chained bear versus dogs, and toeing the line men have always drawn in the grime. THIEVES He attacked his pal with a shovel as if it were a sword. It cracked against a palette-shield that doubled as a weapon, blocking, then ramming the shovel-wielding man as a foreign tongue spat venom and the shovel swung again. It was two a.m. They were fighting about overtime one had stolen from the other. I saw them in passing, on the way to the transit van that would take me home. They’d been bussed in from Glasgow: Kosovans. Weeks later, on another factory floor, I heard over the din of machines in-between songs on the radio, news of that other place employing illegal immigrants. Cunts ir stealin’ oor joabs, a man along the line said. Months later, we were laid off, our work sent abroad, our feet sent to the Job Centre. I found work in a hotel near the fault lines where high and low lands meet. The only Scot among East Europeans, our staff block under conference rooms where men in suits clicked pens. ACROSS THE TRACKS Across the border they’d be chavs. Here, they’re neds, and almost proud, as if to be a ned was to have a trade; their shell suits overalls, Buckfast bottles tools. They drink by a stone in a park near a railway station in the dark unable to see what the stone’s supposed to be, until a lighter reveals words about a civil war in Spain. Across the rails a memorial garden is maintained for lives laid down in the Great War for Civilisation and all the wars that came after civilisation was won. Wiy’s this stane here, no there? What made this war diffrint? Ma pals pal wis killed in Afghanistan – what stane will his name be oan? Just then, headlights of a police van across the road, hit them like an interrogation light, bright with questions of its own. A voice called like a cue to act out the role they’d been given. Or the life they’d chosen, depending on what side of the line we choose to see them from. Near a public library and museum, art gallery and memorial garden, across the tracks, on the steps of the Adam Smith Theatre, a man and woman exit Macbeth as three boy-men run by a train and enter a scene they’ve no part in. Across the Tracks – This poem refers to the Spanish Civil War memorial in Kirkcaldy, which happens to be a few minutes walk from where I live.