No 12 - Autumn 2007
Among the Farthest Hebrides
1. The Standing Stones at Callarnish
Directions do not signify –
whatever choice I make I would be excluded,
cadaverous elementals stirring
widdershins to the way I choose to go.
They shift while I’m not looking. Hooded shapes
incline towards each other, guardians of that centre
that I will never reach.
(Never, never, never,
the sea-birds wail as they head across the marsh.)
Forlorn in the salty gale I retain the bitter sense
that though I am watched whichever way I turn
everything that I know and feel would still be met
with an indifference so complete
as to annihilate all but the safety of the dead.
There is a presence here that blocks off what I am,
some old remoteness that ignorance alone
could allude to as a cryptogram of space and rock.
2. The Black House at Arnol
A stall for humans
and their subject cattle –
no Peggoty cosiness
within this upturned boat,
thatched, pitched like a tent
and windowless and smoky
with the scent of turf –
stoop carefully here
and grope for an earth
brutal beyond our scope,
a dogged ground
beggarly and blind
to those who dig, devour,
excrete and breed
as a cliff hurls back
the impounding sea.
A place of origin,
bare, untenanted, untracked,
a nowhere space
theirs for the making
in whose dark homestead
you lie close
for fear lest the wind should blast
all hearing out of mind.
3. Happy Land
‘A nook-shotten Cythera’ – Harris tweed
can be viewed in the making in a shed
beside the Little Minch.
The old lady with her soft sweet looks,
canny and kind,
works the treadles up and down
as the tourists come and go.
Both she and they are happy being together.
The arty woman with red hair
disposing of lino-cuts and canvases,
is contented, like her cat (ginger
to match the hair), with this lunar landscape’s
ancient peat-tracks wandering down
to the clear white sands
and the calming sight of the flawless cone of Pabbay.
Here at the land’s edge Rodel’s church is dark
in death’s black light. Yet see,
from the graveyard’s roly-poly slopes
the swart tower upholding life and death together
in a rude sculpturing –
an unseemliness – the minster’s wife
was appalled – that cheeky fellow
playing with himself, so cocky in all weathers!
4. On Toe Head
A mammoth stillness, only a quiet scuttering,
somewhere in the scrub, of tiny bird or rodent.
Far below, a woman moves slowly along the beach, bending
her slender length in quest of stones
for a suburban garden.
The mountains stand around like pyramids
her children might have drawn.
‘Land of the Ultimate West’, ‘The Sunset Isles’
are images from an Edwardian bookman’s gentle prose
of that longed-for shore betrayed by poetasters’ languid
scorn of sweat, the management of matter,
stench of dung,
the sting of hail: you would dream of it
as home. Now you are there.
As though compelled, the drowsy habit of nostalgia
awakens to be baffled by its own completion
and failure to recall the day gone down below a gilded sea.
From head to toe your body yearns
the waning of the gleam when cliffs foretell
the final plunge you dread.
But now earth’s gravity blots out the evening mirage
as the globe rolls back, receding into night.
Beyond the moon’s propulsion you will sleep through that return
to where the sun is waiting for you,
and behold your shadow
toe to head enfolding you
in a momentary singleness at noon.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The