Sheep and kirk,
croft and lighthouse,
wreck on treacherous reef;
green, gold, grey,
crumbling stone, lichen-
covered – every inch
could have been touched
by hand, hoof or gull’s
stick leg. Dig and dig,
find new meaning in
layers of soil, of
this subtle, parallel
place, that makes north
true, possible, outlined,
like a ghost’s drawn breath.
Light fractures on a quilted sky,
heart drops like the barometer
thumps like the prehistoric drum
heralds winter tumbling wildly
the way it does and must have done
in ancient times, over fields, stones, beasts
and rooftops heavily fastened down.
There would have been unease in their eyes,
the very young and old wrapped up,
fires tended anxiously and stores laid in,
food eked out and sacrifices made
to some rippling-muscled, temperamental
gods, who caught, once in a while
their flash of their life.
They might be surprised to know
the world is small. An unprotected eyeball
revolving near a star; and we’re blinding it slowly,
blotting out history, by degrees.
The ancients banged the drum
for fear. Accessing a void
or something we can’t find.
Marking the luxury of time.
Jimmy at Brodgar
Through a plague of exuberant flies
we tread Brodgar’s perimeter,
touch deep-cut, nineteenth century letters;
older seeming than the ancient stone they desecrate.
It’s calm, brimful of summer light.
You ask about the lochs and parish boundaries,
read the information boards from corner to corner;
talk about turbines on the horizon.
Next day, a message comes –
your father’s not expected to last the night.
He was proud, you say, that you’re in another world,
writing poetry, trying your wings.
He wouldn’t want you to run back.
Still, I watch you later, head in hands,
clutched by the grief that is just arriving.
He dies without you; at dawn you fly home.
What have you exchanged for those last moments?
Determined, like the flies that stuck to us at Brodgar,
you stayed the course, touched stone,
declared yourself a poet; took off alone.