Passing Through

“In Transit” 

World of the bizarre,

land of in-between,

burbling, rumbling coffee machines.

Surreal speed, swerve,

dash in a passenger cart

‘Look out! Look out!’

It’s the airport Formula One.

Moving from camp to camp in terminal-land,

each stretched-out shapeless hour

marked by new territory,

the wandering-quest

for a change of scene, a fresh discovery.

Stake out some chairs

with a bag and your bones,

watch in sleepy disbelief

as rain pools oddly on the floor.

You know the PA voice so intimately,

it might as well be

a friend of long standing.

Onward, then!

The next journey begins…

~ Marta Ziemelis. Copyright July, August 2014.

I did a lot of travelling this summer, and wrote the piece above during a 12-hour layover in an unfamiliar airport. I feel it does a reasonable job of expressing both the excitement and tedium you can experience when spending a lot of ‘transitional time’ in a place that’s fairly new to you, even if the country and language are old friends (as they were for me, in this case). Shoutout to my fellow TCKs and other travellers, who probably also know this feeling well!


Whisky, uisge beatha , water of life

“After Auchentoshan”

Chug-a-chug-a, chug-a-chug-a

rattling into the hills

on a small train

green grey brown flash past,

bridges and sheep flicker

in the corners of your eyes.

It’s been a day of big oak barrels, gleaming copper,

cool underground smells, heady fumes.

A bottle of dark gold

whisky uisge beatha water of life

nestles like a curled-up story in your bag,

waiting for dark after-supper time

when hot-coal colours flicker in the fireplace,

familiar well-loved voices warm the air,

talk is long and slow,

hummed notes distill

into bright rich song.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Glasgow and Dubai, copyright August 2013.

Auchentoshan is the name of a whisky distillery near Glasgow, which I toured on my recent visit to Scotland (more about the trip in this post). Part of my reason for going to the distillery was research for a translation project I’m currently working on, and the other part was sheer curiosity. Definitely an intense place – I think I’m beginning to understand why whisky has the potential to fascinate people so much. Slàinte!

Wandering to Tea


Raw silk cotton half-dark,

white stucco, whitewashed brick embrace,

smells of incense and spice.

Music in the corners of your mind

Turkish lamps, draping the low ceiling

with gold-light lacework.

Chessboard crazy-mosaic tables in different shades of wood

Low cushions in soft bright colours

Corners that feel like home,

an arm about your shoulders.

A hundred different types of tea,

all flowing – flowing endlessly

Warm round pot on the sticky tabletop,

a hot comfortable cup in your hands.

Shelter, discovery, smoke-scented gentle love – all at once.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Glasgow and Dubai, copyright August 2013.

I recently took a trip to Glasgow, Scotland, to visit a close friend. During the week I spent there I came to some realisations about myself, and made a number of discoveries. One of these discoveries – with which the seasoned and maybe also the new travellers among my readers will be familiar – was that if you are shown around or told about a newly-visited place by someone who lives there, you will stumble across wonderful spots you might not have discovered on your own. That’s how I found myself in the Glasgow tea-house Tchai-Ovna, which inspired this piece. If you are ever in Glasgow and fancy a good cup of tea, I suggest tracking it down.