Thursday, 21 February 2013

Bardachd / Poetry


BARDACHD AN GAIDHLIG 'S AM BEURLA, 1968-

POETRY IN GAELIC AND ENGLISH, 1968-  








'S e 'Baile Beag a' Chaolais' an dan as traithe a tha air mhaireann de na h-oidhirpean
'bardail' agam.  'S e dan neochiontach, romansach a th' ann ann an seann nos an orain,
coltach ri iomadh oran eile da sheorsa a rinneadh mu Thiriodh.  Cha do mhair an
neochiontas fada an deidh sin, mar a chithear ann an 'Call', a rinneadh mu 1973, agus
a chaidh a chur an clo ann an 'Gairm' ann an 1974.   Faodar an dan sin a leughadh mar
'shoraidh' do shaoghal neochiontach na h-oige, agus saoghal ur eile air nochdadh.  Car mun
aon am thoisich mi air 'dealbhan bardail' no 'facal-dhealbhan' a chruthachadh, 's mi a'
feuchainn ri cuid de na faireachdainnean 'fo-inntinneach' a bha nam thuigse fhin
mun eilean, a chur an ceill.  Rinn mi an dan 'Cambridge' ann an 1973, nuair a bha mi
nam oileanach ann an Colaisde Emmanuel.   Chaidh na tri dain sin agus 'Tilleadh'
fhoillseachadh ann an 'Gairm' 86 (1974).

Cha robh mi riamh a' beachdachadh orm fhin mar 'bhard' no ag iarraidh 'aithneachadh'
mar bhard; thigeadh is dh'fhalbhadh an ealain, 's cha robh mi a' cumail orm gu cunbhalach idir.
'S e doigh air m' inntinn a shocrachadh a bha ann am bardachd is rannaigheachd dhomhsa. 
Cha deachaidh na dain eile anns an earrann seo a chur an clo riamh.   Rinneadh
a' mhor-chuid dhiubh bhon a leig mi dhiom mo dhreuchd ann an 2008,
agus a thill spiorad a' chruthachaidh.
 





Tilleadh 


Tha seachdain bhon a thill mi gad ionnsaigh,
eilein, ’s cha d’aithnich mi idir
gun robh mi air ruigheachd.

Bha an geamhradh air d’ aodann,

’s an t-uisg’ a’ sruthadh air do chraiceann
’s do bhlàth uile air searg;
cha b’ ionnan is samhradh do làithean
no eadhon an t-earrach;
cha d’aithnich mi idir thu seach Muile
no Ile air an rathad dhachaigh.

 
Ach fhathast dh’fhairich mi do tharraing
’s am bàt’-adhair a’ tighinn a laighe
air aghaidh lom do mhachrach; 
dh’fhairich mi an seann cho-chomann
a’ ruith air feadh mo chuislean,
mar a’ chritheanaich eadar an seileach ’s an sruthan,
nuair a bhithinn a’ gluasad nam bhalach
’s an t-slatag nam làimh feuch am faighinn
a’ mhàthair-uisge shìos fon talamh.

An Geamhradh 1974

 
Returning
 
A week has passed since I returned to you,
island, and I did not realise at all
that I had arrived.
Winter was upon your face,
and water streaming on your skin,
and all your bloom had withered;
it was nothing like the summer of your days,
or even the spring;
I could not distinguish you at all from Mull
or Islay on the way home.
 
But still I recognised your magnetism
as the aircraft made its descent
on the bare plain of your machair;
I felt the old companionship
running through my arteries
like the tingling between the willow and the stream
when I used to move as a boy
with the twig in my hand to see if I could locate
the source of water below the surface.

 
Transl. July 2003   
 
 
------------------------------------------------

 

IONNDRAINN

Bha mi ’m bliadhn’ sa Chaolas

’S cha b’ aoibhneil leam mo chuairt;

Bha falamhachd bha aognaidh

Cur gaoirsinn ghèir nam smuain:

Tha a’ choimhearsnachd bha coibhneil,

Le aoighealachd cho suairc,

A-nis cho gann de dhaoine

’S gu bheil caochladh searbh na tuar.
 

 FEELING THE LOSS


I was this year in Caolas
But my trip brought me no joy;
A cold and deathly emptiness
Sent a sharp shiver through my thoughts;
The community that was once kindly
With a generous open door,
Is now so short of people
That it has been bitterly transformed.

Bha mise caoidh nan càirdean

Bha cho blàth nan dòighean rium;

 

Na fir a bhruidhneadh Gàidhlig,

Làn àbhachdais is uaill,

Tha nis nan cadal sàmhach

Ann am baile-tàimh na h-uaigh,

Ann an Circeabol na tràghad

Far an cluinnear gàir nan stuagh.

 
I was lamenting my friends
Who were so warm in all their ways;
The men who would speak Gaelic
Full of fun and happy pride,
Who now are sleeping quietly
In the residence of the grave,
In Kirkapol by the shoreline
Where we hear the cry of waves.
 

Gum faca mi na coimhearsnaich

Nan leacan taobh ri taobh;

M’ athair caomh bu mhacanta,

’S nach bruidhneadh facal faoin;

Niall Chàrnain bho cho labhartach,

’S cho trang sa h-uile dòigh,

’S Teonaidh Mòr Nèill Ailein,

Bha san Airde Deas mar nòs.


I saw my former neighbours
Under gravestones side by side;
My father, kind in meekness,
Who would not speak a silly word;
Neil from Carnan who was loquacious
And busy in every way,
And Big Johnnie, son of Niall Ailein,
Whose roots lay in Aird Deas.


Cha chluinn mi anns a’ mhadainn iad

A’ cur na croit gu feum,

A’ falbh le cairt is tractar,

’S a’ toirt nam mart gu fèill;

Cha mhotha bhios a’ chomhartaich

Gam mhosgladh às mo shuain;

Tha cù is maighstir nise balbh –

Is sàmhchair gharbh san tuath.


I don't hear them in the morning
Putting the croft to use,
Going with cart and tractor,
And taking cows to sell;
No longer does the barking
Wake me from my sleep;
Dog and master are now dumb
And a terrible silence reigns.

 

Rinn mi an duanag seo uaireigin mu 1990, nuair a chaochail Teonaidh Nèill Ailein, fìor dheagh choimhearsnach.  Bha mi air mo lèireadh leis a’ bhròn, ag ionndrainn nan daoine gasda air an robh mi eòlach anns a’ bhaile agam fhìn, an Caolas.  Bidh na deòir nam shùilean a h-uile uair a leughas mi na sgrìobh mi. 

Chuir mi seo air stiall phàipeir, agus chuir mi e am broinn aon de na leabhraichean aig Seumas Hunter, a bha mi a’ leughadh aig an àm.  Dhìochuimhnich mi mu dheidhinn – gus an do thog mi an leabhar a-rithist mu bhliadhna air ais, agus thuit an stiall seo às an leabhar.
 

 --------------

 

Am Màiri Stiùbhart


 

Chan eil air fhàgail ach do dhruim,

na laighe mar chnàmh-droma uilebheist

ann am Port Sgairinis,

do shaidhean toisich is deiridh

nan stoban air fiaradh;                                                            

d’ aisnean, do chliathaichean,

do chraiceann, do ghuailnean,

d’ aodach,

do chruinn,

uile air am bleith

don ghainmhich mhìn;

do chnàmhan air cnàmh.

 

Ach bha latha eile agad

nuair a bha thu fo uidheam

do mhaighdeannais,

do shlige maiseach,

do shiùil gheala ag at leis an t-soirbheas,

cop a’ spriodadh mu do shròin,

a’ cur an t-srutha gu dhùbhlan,

’s do chorp làn

le toradh na talmhainn,

do dharach a’ seinn le aoibhneas

saorsa na h-òige:

 

Clann Dhòmhnaill Oig gad stiùireadh

le cleamhnas moiteil,

gad chumail air do chùrsa

air a’ chuan uaibhreach

ghorm-uaine

eadar Albainn is Eirinn,

eadar Ile is Barraidh,

eadar Tiriodh is Aird Drosain,

eadar laimrig is laimrig.

 

Ach nuair a bha do latha seachad

dh’fhàg iad thu gu sàmhach socrach

anns a’ phort fa chomhair an dachaigh,

is beag air bheag

eag air eag,

chaidh thu sìos;

dh’fhalbh do mhaise,

dh’fhalbh do threòir;

’s tha thu fhèin ’s do sgioba

aig fois a-nise,

ged a tha an cuan mòr siorraidh

fhathast ag imlich do shàiltean,

a’ cumail a’ chàirdeis.
 
 

The Mary Stewart

 
Nothing remains but your keel

lying like the back-bone of a monster

in Scarinish Harbour,

your stem- and stern-post

now spikes bent-over;

your ribs, your sides,

your skin, your shoulders,

your clothes,

your masts,

all ground down

into the smooth sand;

your bones withered.

 

But you had another day

when you were attired

in your maidenhood,

your hull beautiful,

your white sails swelling with the breeze,

foam frothing about your nose,

putting the current to defiance,

and your body full

of the produce of the earth,

your oak singing with the joy

of youth’s freedom:

 

Young Donald’s kindred steering you

in a proud relationship by marriage,

keeping you on your course

on the haughty,

blue-green ocean,

between Scotland and Ireland,

between Islay and Barra,

between Tiree and Ardrossan,

between haven and haven.

 

But when your day was done

they left you quietly and gently

in the harbour in front of their home,

and little by little,

notch by notch,

you went into decay;

your beauty vanished,

your strength disappeared;

and you and your crew

are now at peace,

although the great, eternal ocean

is still licking your heels,

maintaining kinship.
 

-----------------------------
 



Iain Againn Fhìn’
(Mar Chuimhneachan air Iain Dòmhnallach, bràthair mo sheanmhar,
a chaidh a mharbhadh aig Dàrna Blàr Arras anns a’ Ghiblin 1917)

 
Aig Arras cha robh do smuaintean
Air poll no eabar no uamhas,
Air gunnachan mòra le nuallan
A’ tilgeil shligean gun truas annt’,
A’ treabhadh talamh torrach na uaighean,
No air cuirp a’ grodadh sa bhuachair,
Gun sealladh air latha na buadha;
B’ e do dhleastanas bu dual duit,
'S thill thu bho thaobh thall nan cuantan
Gu feachd Earra Ghàidheal ’s nan Sutharlan;
Tìr nam beann ’s nam breacan uallach
Ann an èiginn - ‘Dìon do dhualchas!’
 
Ach bha do smuaint sa mhionaid uaire
Air obair earraich san eilean uaine,
Teaghlach a’ cosnadh lòn le cruadal,
'S do mhiann a bhith le crann a’ gluasad,
A’ gearradh sgrìob gu treun tron chrualach,
A’ cur an t-sìl le dòchas buannachd
Fa chomhair nan geamhraidhean fuara.
 
Bheuc an gunna mòr gu suaicheant’,
Sanas-maidne blàr na buadha,
'S leum thu, Iain, far na bruaiche,
Toirt taic dod chomanndair uasal;
Am peilear guineach, beag cha chual’ thu,
Tighinn le fead ’s do dhàn san luaidh’ aig’,
Bho fhear-cuims’ bha falaicht’ bhuatsa;
Thuit thu le lot nach gabhadh fuasgladh;
Geamhradh na fala a’ toirt buaidh ort.

‘Iain Againn Fhin’, bu truagh e,
Sìnte anns a’ bhàs neo-bhuadhmhor,
’S na ceudan ghaisgeach marbh ra ghualainn -
Earrach searbh an Arras uaignidh.


 





Our Own John’

(In Memory of my grandmother’s brother, John MacDonald, who was killed at the Second Battle of Arras in April 1917.)


At Arras your reflections
Were not on mud or mire or horror,
Or on the great guns with their roaring,
Firing shells that had no mercy,
Ploughing fertile fields into graveyards,
Or on bodies putrefying in cow-dung,
Without ever glimpsing the day of victory;
Doing your duty was in your nature,
And you returned from across the oceans
To join the regiment of Argyll and Sutherland;
The land of mountains and proud tartans
Was in distress – ‘Defend your culture.’
 
But your thought at that very moment
Was on spring work in the grass-green island,
A family struggling to make their living;
You wished to be at the plough, and moving,
Cutting a furrow through the hard soil bravely,
Planting the seed in the hope of cropping,
With due regard for winters’ coldness. 
The big gun roared its public signal,
The reveille for the day of triumph,
And you, John, over the top went leaping
To support your fine commander;
But you did not hear the little bullet,
With your fate in its lead, whistling,*
From a marksman hidden from you;
Incurably wounded, you were toppled;
Blood’s cold winter was the victor.
‘Our own John’, his plight was piteous,
Stretched out lifeless to no profit;
With hundreds of heroes dead by his shoulder –
Springtime was bitter in bleak Arras.

 *This line is deliberately ambiguous: the alternative translation is ‘and your song/elegy in its story’.

-----------------------------------
 
 
 















AM BODACH

Siud thu fhèin, a Bhodaich uaibhrich,
Nad sheasamh àrd air do spiris chloiche,
A’ toirt dùbhlan (mas fhìor) do na siantan,
’S gaoth is uisge, grian is gealach,
Gad chriomadh ’s gad chagnadh,
Gad itheadh ’s gad bhleith,
Beag air bheag,
Uidh ar n-uidh,
Eag an siud ’s eag an seo,
Spealg a’ geilleadh,
Spal a’ diobradh,
Aol a’ dol na ghainmhich,
Clach a’ cnàmh ’s a’ tuiteam,
Gad thanachadh ’s gad chromadh,
Gus am fàs thu cugallach, cam-cheumach,
Gus an grod do chasan ’s do bhunait,
Gus an tig an dàrna aois ort,
’S gus an tig thu leis an leathad
Le tàirneanach torannach na taingealachd,
’S tu marbh a-rithist, nad mhìle bloigh,
Ann an coilionadh na h-aimsir;
Chan fheumar spreigeadh no spreaghadh,
Oir coilionar gach ceartas
Le aicheabhail tìm
Seach dìoghaltas dhaoine.

 
Gus a sin, a charaid,
Gabh deagh beachd mu do thimcheall
Air d’ oighreachd fharsaing, fhalaimh,
Agus air an sgrios a rinn thu
’S na lotan a dh’fhàg thu
Ann an Srath Nabhair ’s Cill Donnain;
Beachdaich orra uile
Le do shùilean nach fhaic,
Leis na làmhan nach fhairich,
Leis a’ chridhe nach ploisg,
Leis an eanchainn nach tuig,
Leis a’ chogais nach taisich;

 
Agus leig fios do sheallaidh leis a’ Bhàillidh,
Do shearbhanta dìleas, Pàdraig an Creachadair,
Gus am breithnich sinne a tha beò
Air an deifir eadar bàs is beatha,
Eadar saorsa is daorsa,
Eadar fradharc is cion fradhairc,
Eadar ciùrradh is cofhurtachd,
Ann an inntinn do leithid-sa;
Oir bu bheag tròcair a nochd thu
Ris na truaghain a fhuair a’ bhàirlinn
Dheagh-rùnach
Dheireannach
Dheamhnaidh.


 
THE OLD GUY
 
There you are, you pompous Old Guy,
Standing high on your perch of stone,
Offering defiance (supposedly) to the elements,
With wind and rain, sun and moon,
Nibbling you and chewing you,
Eating you and grinding you down,
Little by little,
Step by step,
A notch here and a notch there,
A sharp stone giving way,
A fastener coming adrift,
Mortar turning to sand,
A stone perishing and falling,
Thinning you and causing you to bend,
Until you become unsteady, crooked-stepped,
Until your feet and your foundation rot,
Until a second old age afflicts you,
And you tumble down the slope,
With a thunderous threnody of thanksgiving,
And you are dead again, in a thousand fragments,
In the fullness of time;
No effort or explosion will be needed,
For every justice will be fulfilled
By the vengeance of time,
Rather than the revenge of men.


 
Until then, my friend,
Take a good look around you
At your estate, broad and empty,
And at the destruction you wrought
And the wounds you created
In Strathnaver and Kildonnan;
Observe them all
With your unseeing eyes,
With your unfeeling hands,
With your unbeating heart,
With your uncomprehending brain,
With your unsoftening conscience;

  
And tell us how things look, by means of the Factor,
Your faithful servant, Patrick the Plunderer,
So that we who are alive may fathom
The difference between life and death,
Between freedom and bondage,
Between vision and blindness,
Between torture and comfort,
In the minds of people like yourself;
For you showed precious little mercy
To the poor souls who got their eviction notice,
Kindly meant,
Final,
Fiendish.
 -------------------------


CHUM SIBH UR CEUM DIREACH

Dàn mar chuimhneachan air Aonghas MacLeòid









Choisich sibh air a’ chreig chruaidh 
 
Ann an Calbost

Riasg na mòintich fo ur casan
 
A’ bogachadh ur ceumanan
 








Eadar feur is fraoch
Eadar feannagan is fangan

Eadar ceàrdaichean ’s cairidhean
Eadar eathraichean ’s acfhainn
Eadar làraichean is tobhtaichean
Agus chùm sibh ur ceum
Dìreach.
 
Cha robh cùl-shleamhnachadh ann
Tuisleachadh cha do rinn sibh
Claonadh-seallaidh cha b’ aithne dhuibh
’S sibh ri faire air a’ chuan luasganach
’S air a’ choimhearsnachd chaochlaidich
Tonnan a’ bleith a’ chladaich
Siantan ag ithe na tìre
Ginealaichean a’ treabhadh
’S a’ buain gu socrach
’S mu dheireadh gan cur fhèin
San ùir bhuig bhailbh
A’ fuireach ri Earrach.

Ach ribhse bha iad a’ labhairt
Na clachan ag innse sgeulachd
Na fàrdaichean a’ cur fàilte
Na nàbaidhean a’ còmhradh
A’ glaodhach nur cluais
Gus an tug sibh fois dhaibh
Gus an do threabh sibh an naidheachd
 Le sgrìoban cruinn
Air grunnd torach a’ phàipeir
A’ tionndadh fonn nan duilleag
Le coltar geur ur pinn
Gus an tàinig toradh ùr
Earrach eile
Le fras na tuigse. 
Anns an taigh-adhraidh
Taibhsean a’ gluasad
Bìobaill is Saltairean
Is suidheachain a’ dìosgail
Is Salm a’ falbh air an oiteig:
Cuibhreann mo chup’
Is m’ oighreachd Dia
Air fonn Evan.
Cluasan eile ag èisdeachd
Sùilean eile a’ faicinn
Tro uinneagan eachdraidh
Cridheachan eile a’ plosgail
Ann an ath-bheothachadh
Earrach ùr an Dòchais.

 -----------------------

ABERDEEN HARBOUR

 

Blue, yellow

Green, red,
Colours blaze from still waters,
Towering bows against grey granite,
Steel erections, glass;
Solid quaysides soften with dint of cargoes
To Orkney, Shetland



 
Hjaltland, Hrossey,
The Faroes, Norway;
Your reach is Baltic;
Drills and pipes on cold decks
As first one and then the other Delta Conqueror
Slips quietly seawards lustingly,

Blunt ships, heading into tumultuous rewards.

 





Seagulls squawk welcome,
Shriek their whoops
To squat trawlers sheltered-decked,
Rust-painted, medalled with dents,
Nets reeled, catch embalmed in ice.

 
 
 
 
Brakes squeal down Market Street,
Impatient shards on the roundabout,
As morning bursts in glory
Over Heaven’s artery.



 
 



















------------------

AUTUMNAL EXPRESSIONISM

You are a glorious painter, Autum,
 
your annual open-air exhibition
 



filled with art and craft

wood, water, stone, grass

leaves, branches, trees
 














all tinged with your brush

transformative tints

transversive tones
transcendent hues.



Green burns frothingly
into brown
crinkling clusters
yellow-edged
waters tumble speckled
as loose foliage whirls
seawards
to meet ghost-ships
on silver seas lurching
between purple islands.


Painter magnificent
your irrepressible palette mixes
skyline yellows
mountain greys
tree reds
valley blues

clouds green
with northern lights
dusk spangles
translucent  orbs
spectra of colour.





Eyes display-dazzled
but vision hope-enhanced
before winter closes
your paint-box.






 
........................



NOTES FOR THE JOURNEY


In the deepest darkness,
music took me home,
no light but faint moon
struggling with grey-black cloud,
no road to see,
no vision but chords
of humming in the wires.
 
Each pole a friend
bearing messages of goodwill,
a woodwind orchestra,
as the night breezes swept low
and played their melodies –
deep bass from the pole with the bent back,
high soprano from that shapely trunk,
a happy purr from yon ancient tree,
that was now telling stories
to those younger friends
in lyrical line by the field’s edge.
 
Spooks were set at bay,
but sometimes a tinkle
broke the harmony,
sent a shiver through my spine
as a folktale ghosted past,
a headless body buried in words
that only wind and poles remembered
in that atmospheric ceilidh-house
of myriad rings. 

I’d quicken pace,
speak to each pole,
asking distance,
and the tune would come,
across the flattened machair,
bleak miles shortened
into consoling cadences,
the house gable now clear ahead,
marked by the strong north pole
with tuneful cross-angled bars
beside the red phonebox,
the melodeon of the heart
filled with sounds and sweet airs,
soft voices in an island
full of telegraphic noises. 

----------------------------


Trì Dàin mar Chuimhneachan air Ruaraidh MacThòmais
 





 
 1.       Ruaraidh

Dh’fhalbh sibh, a Ruaraidh,
Gu ciùin, socrach,

Mar osag ghaoithe

Thar monaidhean Leòdhais;

’S thàinig sgòth air Mùirneag
Is cìrean air an Loch a Tuath,

Agus air Cnoc Ille Mhoire
Laigh ceòban.

 
Ach cha d’fhalbh sibh idir,
Agus chan fhalbh.

Tha ur tùr togte,
Oir chuir sibh tùr anns gach inntinn
Nach leag oiteag no stoirm.
Chruthaich sibh bunaitean
A sheasas gu daingeann.

 
Chuir sibh pìos dhìobh fhèin annainne,
Ann an aol ar beatha;
Fairichidh sinn sibh a’ gluasad,
Cluinnidh sinn sibh a’ leughadh,
Chì sinn sibh a’ sgrìobhadh,
Leughaidh sinn ar n-eachdraidh fhìn
Nur bàrdachd
Gus am falbh sinne cuideachd.

 
Bidh ur gàire ’s ur càineadh,
Gach fealla-dhà is gach feall-fhalach,
Gach cleas is car
A bha nur freumhan,
Ann an doimhneachd ar tùir.

 
Chì sinn sibh a’ gluasad air ceòl nan Salm,
Anns an t-seòladh shìorraidh,
A’ dèanamh fiughair ri Alasdair Chaluim Alasdair,
’S ur sùilean beaga biorach fon dosan uaibhreach,
A’ cumail sùil air an tùr
Mar chomharradh-stiùiridh.
 

 
2.      Tilleadh gu caladh


Chunnaic mi sibh a’ seòladh,
A’ tilleadh gu caladh,
A’ Mhùirneag ’s a brèid donn a’ bùcadh,
A beul gu bhith fodha ’s i a’ bòrdadh
Ann an sùil an fhuaraidh,
An t-slat dhaingeann a’ dìosgail,
An sgòd teann gu bristeadh,
Niall Iain Ruaidh air na buill,
Alasdair Chaluim Alasdair aig an stiùir.

 
Sibh fhèin, mar bu dual,
Mar fhear-innse nan uisgeachan
Aig an t-saidh thoisich:
‘Cùm i eag eile air a’ ghaoith, Alasdair;
Teannaich an sgòd, a Nèill,
’S nì sinn caladh dheth gu rèidh.’

 
Solais Steòrnabhaigh air fàire,
Am bàgh mòr cinnteach a’ fosgladh,
Fèath a’ tighinn an dèidh doininn is riaslaidh,
An t-slat mhòr ga teàrnadh,
Am brèid donn gu phàsgadh,
A beul a’ bualadh a’ chidhe.
 

‘Mach an sgadan, a Ruaraidh,
Gus am faic na marsantan
Toradh na h-oidhche,
Na basgaidean lainnireach
A choisinn sinn;
An ulaidh a fhuair thu fhèin
As a’ chuan luasganach.’

 
Agus chunnaic iad le ioghnadh
Iasg a’ ghliocais ’s an eòlais,
Nach fhacas a leithid riamh
Air còrsachan Alba.
 


3.      Muir-làn na Gàidhlig

 
Ged a thogamaid le chèile
Air eileanan loma mara,
Bha na crìochan ann;
Iomall mara is iomall tìre,
Crios nan creag gar ceangal
Nar seallaidhean fhìn.
 

Monaidhean ruadha Leòdhais,
Machraichean gorma Thiriodh;
Sibhse tuathach,
Mise deasach;
Sibhse am measg nam beann ’s nan iolair,
Mise a’ coiseachd air a’ chòmhnard.
 
 
Ri muir-tràigh, thigeadh còmhstri,
Dreach coimheach air gach cladach,
Creagan corrach is boghachan sleamhainn,
’S sinn a’ tuisleachadh
’S a’ bualadh air a chèile,
A’ lorg a’ ghiomaich nimheil
Anns na faichean.
 
Ach thigeadh am muir-làn,
A’ còmhdach nam boghachan,
Na creagan a’ dol à sealladh,
Dreach an t-saoghail  a-nise socrach,
’S sinn a’ seòladh taobh ri taobh,
’S an t-iasg pailt gu leòr.
 
Muir-làn na Gaidhlig gar cuartachadh
Anns an acarsaid,
’S sinn air an aon ràmh
Ann am bann dlùth a’ chàirdeis,
Ball nach bris am bàs -
Acair daingeann  na sgoilearachd
Ann an grunnd na cuimhne.


--------------------------------------
Eilean an t-Sròim
 
  

 
















Bu daingeann a sheas thu,  
 
Eilein an t-Sròim,




A’ dosanachadh fad nan linntean ladarna

Ri uamhasan Cuan nan Orc;

Fir Mheara na Mèidhe air mhire-chatha,
A’ dannsa le sannt creiche,
Fearg doininn gan riasladh gu rùitean,
Cìreanan geala ag èirigh nan sradagan,
Sruthan searbha nan cuartagan cealgach,
A’ cur mharaichean air thuaineal,
Nan clàir air cladach coimheach.
 
‘S ged a thuit an Glup nad bhroinn,
 Sheas thusa,
‘S tu a’ glaodhach an aghaidh na gaoithe,
Ag èigheach ris na tonnan,
A’ seirm le port cinnteach:  
‘Cha toir thu buaidh, a chumhachd chearbaich,
Ged a dh’fhuadaich thu mo chlann,
Ged a sgap thu mo dhaoine,
Ged a tha mo leapannan nan spruilleach,
Ged a dh’fhàg thu agam làraichean loma,
Ged a ghrod a’ mheirg mo chuid acfhainn,
Ged a thuit mo dhealbhan luachmhor air an ùrlar,
Ged a tha gach truinnsear na sgealban,
Ged a theab mo thalamh dol fodha
Ann an salchar nan caorach,
Ged a rinn thu sgrios a rèir do thograidh
Air clèibh is lìn is laimrigean,
Air eathraichean is iùbhraichean,
Air gach gàrradh grianach is acarsaid àlainn,
Gus nach biodh fasgadh ann.


‘Tha mise an seo fhathast,
Agus bithidh,
Gus am bris an là agus gus an teich na sgàilean,
Gus am bi solas an aoibhneis anns na fàrdaichean fuara,
Teine dìomhair nach tuig thusa anns na cagailtean,
Do neart-sa air a chrioslachadh nam sheirbhis-sa,
A’ toirt spionnadh do na làmhan laga,
A’ ceangal nan cridheachan briste,
A’ slànachadh nan glùinean brùthte,
Gam thoirt fo bhlàth am meadhan nan tuiltean,
Gam sgeadachadh gu moiteil
Ann an trusgan ioma-dhathach
Na h-aiseirigh.’
 
15 Cèitean 2012



 
Stroma

Sturdily you stood,
Stroma island,
Tussling throughout the relentless centuries
With the horrors of the Pentland Firth,
The Merry Men of Mey in battle fury
Dancing with booty’s lust,
Storm’s rage whipping them into huge billows,
White crests rising in sparks,
Terrible currents becoming treacherous whirlpools,
Turning mariners dizzy,
In smithereens on an alien shore.

 Although the Gloup collapsed within you,
You stood,
Shouting in the face of the wind,
Bellowing to the waves,
Chanting a sure song: 
‘You will not win, deceitful power,
Though you exiled my children,
Though you scattered my people,
Though my beds are reduced to shards,
Though you left me with razed ruins,
Though rust has rotted my implements,
Though my precious pictures have fallen on the floor,
Though every plate is smashed,
Though my land was almost smothered
In the dirt of sheep,
Although you wrought havoc as you wished
On creels, and lines, and anchorages,
On small boats and large vessels,
On every sunward dyke and fair haven,
To give no more shelter.
‘I am still here,
And I will be,
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee,
Until the light of joy shines in cold ruins,
A mysterious fire, incomprehensible to you, in the hearths,
Your strength girded in my service,
Strengthening the weak hands,
Binding the broken hearts,
Healing the bruised generations ,           [pun on ‘gluinean’, ‘knees’]
Making me blossom in the midst of the torrents,
Arraying me proudly
In the multi-coloured garment
Of resurrection.’


 
15 May 2012

-------------------------------

GEOMENTALITY

 
 












 



 What are our minds but layers

 Deposited like sandstone strata
 



 Dunnet Heads of experience

 Piling up, then grinding down

 Piled up and ground down again
 By tides, by forces beyond our knowing
 Which shape our knowledge
 Struggling to embed themselves
 Against one another
 To deflect a new tsunami
 Or receive it
 Wave and wind and torrent
 Meeting, fighting, fretting, calming
 Making us
 Outwardly explicable layers
 Inwardly mysterious, impenetrable
 Malleable but rock-solid

 
 We are the children of our age
 We say
 But children of all ages
 We are since time began
 With a grain of Hastings
 A splinter of Bannockburn
 A shard from Culloden's musket
 A glimmer from Crimea
 A mud stain from the Somme
 A bayonet's flash from Arras
 A red spark from Clydebank
 An Enola Gay with silver-glinting wings
 Above a mushroom cloud

 These lie within our layers
 Striving
 Stirring
 Battling
 Crushing
 Subducting
 Quaking -
Our minds' geotectonic plates
 Unstable
 On the move again
 As we remake ourselves,
The tridentine harbingers
Of a dangerous
Peace

23.5.2012
-------------------------------------
THAINIG OIRNN DO DH'ALBAINN SEOID

(Mar urram air Tomas Clancy agus Roibeard O Maolalaigh
nuair a chaidh an cur do Chathraichean ann an Oilthigh Ghlaschu
anns an Iuchar 2004)


Thainig oirnn do dh'Albainn seòid
A tha eòlach, ealant', grinn;
An dà shaoi as airde treòir
Le oilean 's seòl is neart cinn.

Am Baile Mòr na h-Ubhail Oir
Thogadh Tòmas, ùidh nan cliar;

'S Rob aig a bheil an ealain bheòil,
Chaith e òige an Ath Cliath.


Bheir Tomas dhuinn brìgh gach dàin
A rinneadh leis na bàird o shean;
'S bheir Rob dhuinn cainnt nan sàr
Chaidh àrach ri linn nan creach.


Cha bhi dualchainnt anns an tìr
Nach mìnich Rob le aigneadh gheur,
Is bidh gach samhladh 's gasda lì
Glact' le Tomas lìomhte, gleusd'.

An Glaschu air Monadh àrd,
Tha Cathraichean nan sàr seud,
'S bidh na h-oidean ud, mar bhàird,
A' togail àbhachdais an treud.

Guma fada buan, gun chlaoidh,
An rèim gu aois, le saod is ceòl;
An Cnoc Gille Mhoire seinnear laoidh
Don dà shaoi a thàinig oirnn.
---------------------------------------------


'Centuries of Oblique Islands' -

 

For Professor Angus and Dr Pat MacDonald

 
on the publication of their beautiful book
 
The Hebrides: An Aerial View of a Cultural Landscape
 

 

 

Over the Hebrides you spread your wings,

glinting white between clouds and sun,

banking over air-spirals mist-edged,

flexing gently, borne aloft by currents,

engine purring, hands on controls,

camera’s eye pointing sharply, deeply down,

over Ben More, the Treshnish Isles, the Sound of Gunna,

catching uplit lightness of gneiss, sandstone, granite,

volcanic rims, lava flows, islands scattered,

at anchor, but never still, hungry tides eating rocks.

 

 

Centuries of Oblique Islands pass below your shadow,

recovered from the palimpsest of human years,

aeons of activity, struggling, pulling, digging,

ploughing, harrowing, hauling stones

into dwellings, rings and oblongs, circles, squares,

living, worshipping, dying, crying, laughing,

children, men and women, youth and age,

stamping their mark and groping onwards,

arrivals, departures, clearances,

storms, peace, days between two weathers,

handing the secret of survival to their kin

who tramp behind them over peat-brown moors,


 

or see the sunlit machair, in royal Maytime,

exploding in kaleidoscopic waves,

windswept, decked with clover and sheep’s ears,

while blue-green seas entice

their coracles, galleys, skiffs and yawls,

to grind their keels upon the pebbly shore,

mighty arms pulling, then setting sail,

a prelude to adventure and intrigue, life’s key.

 
 

Aloft you cross the Sound from unplained Coll,

while Gunna’s wedged crocodile basks,

lying angular, to Tiree, a fragile question-mark –

a level land above, but yet below, the ocean,

part sunken, part afloat, its narrow waist

battling against rising flood with tangled stains.

I see it now from end to end, my people’s home.

But look – there in Gott Bay

the box-hulled car-ferry wheels sternwards,

the green-white curdle of its angry wake

forging links with spans of time,

to disgorge the cars that trundle over pitted roads,

forcing faster pace, while history,

past, present, future, decomposes

into lines, caught by your camera’s eye.

 


Your descent begins, gently through clouds,

throttle eased back, as the Reef beckons,

and hard tarmac meets soft tyres,

engine spluttering, you taxi to a stand,

the propeller jerks to stillness.

 
 


Your treasure, generously shared, is in my hand;

page after page I turn, your flight

my flight, my people’s flight,

through time, through space,

through water, until now.

 

Beyond blue Ben Hynish

Skerryvore’s revolving lantern

with automatic flashes

pinpoints

a tumultuous Atlantic.

 



15 May 2010

 

 
---------------------------------------------

Seumas MacEanraig                                           Hamish Henderson




 

 

Duine àrd cràiceach                                              A tall, tousled man

le oiteag Bhlàr Ghobharaidh                                  with the breeze of Blairgowrie
 
air anail                                                                          on his breath

agus dualchas Ghlinn Sìdhe                                  and the heritage of Glenshee

'na anam;                                                                        in his soul;

'na sheasamh 'na chraoibh                                    standing as a tree-trunk

ann an coille nan linntean,                                    in the forest of the ages,

's e ag èisdeachd ri faghaid                                  hearing the hunt

Dhiarmaid 's an tuirc,                                           of Diarmad and the boar,

na gadhair ris an leathad                                      the hounds cresting the hill

's Fionn 'na shuidhe gu gruamach                          and Fionn sitting sulking

fo sgàil Bheinn Ghulbainn.                                    in the shade of Ben Gulbainn

 

Cuimhnichidh mi air                                             He comes to mind

's mi a' coiseachd                                                 as I walk

am measg tulchain a' ghlinne,                                among the knolls of the glen

an abhainn bhog ri monbhar                                  the river soft murmuring

fon drochaid chloiche ann an Cille Mhìcheil,           under the stone bridge of  
                                                                                  Kirkmichael,

's sgeulachd Dhiarmaid is Ghràinne                       the tale of Diarmad and Grainne

is Sheumais                                                                    and Hamish

'na ceòl biothbhuan nam chluasan.                        as undying music in my ears.

Gum biodh sìth dha fhèin                                      May he himself have peace

anns a' ghleann.                                                   in the glen.

 

 

                             Donald Meek                        (translation Bill Innes)©


--------------------------------------------------



In memory of Ian MacKenzie

Photographer




 
His gentle fingers pressed the button
and clicked us into frame,
trapped by a lens more subtle
than any Zeiss;
a mind, a heart, seeing through
to the persona;
dissatisfied if that essential
throb of real being
had not appeared.
 
His voice Highland,
his manner mild,
calm, unhurried,
he would retake us
until he felt
that we were caught in time –
properly.
 
And our mental cameras
caught him
as friend and colleague
as fashioner of our selves
as craftsman of our lives
as seer of the unseen depths
that lie within.
 
We have his image
indelible
within our memories.
 
 

Donald E. Meek

21 December 2009


 





 
 

 
In Memory of Professor Alexander Fenton






















Sandy the Ploughman


On the fields of Auchterless

You saw the old plough,

Rusting, neglected, unused;

Your hands took its frame

To the smithy,

Fire glowing above the bellows;

Your unflinching anvil and steady hammer

Brought it to sharpness,

Its coulter

Shining

For a new furrow.

 

You chose your team,

Harnessed the horses,

Encouraged them to pull

Together,

Ploughing straight

In stubborn soil.

 

The plough cuts onwards,

Teams are refreshed,

And new crops flourish

Beyond Auchterless.

 

Donald E. Meek 
10 May 2012
 
-------------------------------------------

 
In Memory of  Susan Paterson

Head of Marketing, Caledonian MacBrayne

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Susan

Quietly you slipped your moorings

Your boat destined for the farther side

Bending its smiling sails to the evening breeze

With no strain upon the shrouds

A ripple of laughter from its shapely bow

The helm held firmly in your gentle hand

Waves bearing you proudly

Pleased to carry your kindly spirit

To its desired haven.

 

We did not see you as you left

We had no time say farewell

For we did not set the time –

The schedule was not ours.

There was a time to keep

But we were not the keepers;

Suddenly you were gone

Leaving us the empty space

Beside the harbour wall.

 

Yet with telescopic sight

 We see you on the other side

Where you will rest awhile;

But when your sails are furled

And your boat lies safe above

The relentless stubborn tide

Your warm heart will look astern

Across that restless ocean

Which we too must some day cross;

And when we do make harbour

We will see that beaming face

Which we now so deeply mourn

But which we are proud

To have loved –

And known.

 

DEM

19.12.2012

 ---------------------------------------------
 

                                                            Titanic 1912-2012


 

 

 
                                                              Great ship of dreams,
                                                                      Ice
                                                                                   -slic

                                                                                                -ed,
                                    Shat           tered      o   n            a     n           oc  ean        flo    or,
                                                  Rip             ped,                   stre            wn,
                                                                                    Bow
 
                                                           ground       in              to        mud,
                                                                         Stern whirled topless,








 
                                                                 Impacted lunar-like.
                                                                      Plates, shoes,
                                                                      Cases, davits,
                                      S         h    a  r      d     s,                 f   r   a g     m   e       n   ts,
                                                                  Pottery,              bones,
                                                                Steel,                          brass,
                                                                  Watches stopped dead,
                                                                  Hands frozen to seconds,


 
 
 
 

                                                                       Portholes glassless
                                          Ghostly, gloomy
                             Peering blindly
                                                                               Back through time.
 


 
                                                                                A century has not sunk you;
                                                               Unthinkably unsinkable,
                                                You still heave skywards
                               Before and after
Your final plunge,
Surfacing
Groaning

       Twisting
                  Funnels
                               Falling
                                           Crashing
                                                         In our minds.

 





                                                                                         Two miles down
                                                                                Robots ply their lights,
                                                                    Mechanical arms outstretched
                                                             Reaching to remnants;







                               Achievements with golden beams
                       Separated by a century

           Search each other’s
Destinies.

 

Where can we find
                                     Our white star?

 

 

Donald E. Meek
14 April 2012

 
----------------------------------------
  
Passing Place

Kylerhea 1812-2012






















Dark cattle cast shadows

parked between rocks and bracken,
pipes tune from the inn,
drovers exhausted from the Minches,
feet worn with heather miles,
trudge to the sheltering sides
of compliant cows,
wrapped in plaids and long fur,
breathing together, heavy on the air,
waiting for tomorrow’s swim.
At dawn they rise and nose to tail
defy the rushing current,
gulping for life against the lethal stream.
 

Lots are cast upon the slender ground,
crofts are cut through rock,
lives are sown by stubborn foot-plough,
destinies are stooked against the wind,
blasting from resounding hills.
Strong hands eke out fish, seaweed,
crabs and lobsters,
rowing for life between land and current.

 
Red sails of dipping bark,
heaving hard through bursting wave,
take men and women in pursuit of gleamless silver
to Yarmouth, Stornoway and the Broch
returning tired to winter chores.
Next summer the men will serve
yachts of elegance and opulence,
passing their own doors in style,
while women bend their backs
for pitiless pittances against the brutal tide.

 


















Outwards, onwards, upwards to the hills,
a township struggling to chant faithful psalms
in the creaking Mission House on Cnoc na Gaoithe;
notes grace the mountain pass
below Beinn Bhuidhe;
Seonaidh Chaluim preaches,
waving off consuming midges,
devouring the devout.


Tomorrow ‘Moravia’ will give way to Bealach Udal–
the cow-fetching stony road-track of survival
with only the Grey Stone for shelter.
  









 

 
 

Tonight the water licks the slipway;
no tailback of black cattle in the sunset;
just two cars, one red, one blue,
a white camper-van from Deutschland
ahead, while ‘Glenachulish’
crab-like heaves herself sideways,
swept by the current but still defiant,
nosing in, crew leaping,
turntable swinging,
ramps clattering on concrete,
cars disgorged again;
trundling past ghosts of homes,
tourists gaze at picturesque cottages
with clinical rose-filled gardens,
petunias manicured with scissors,
where untidy lives once sprawled on peat-stacks
with dung-hills at their doors.
‘How lovely it is here!’ they say.

 















 
Minutes
bows clank against the stones,
cars crawl down the slip,
the crew cry, ‘Stop!’
The ceaseless diesel thumps through
the silver up-lit waters,
the last sailing of the day -
not to be missed -


the last sailing to Kylerhea,
passing place of generations.
 















 
DEM
---------------------------------------


DESTINATIONS

 

It lumbers into view

Rolling sullenly on the swell

Metal walls towering bold

Bluff-rounded, defiant

Straight-angled, box-shaped

Block-funnelled, stump-masted

Low-sterned, heaving sideways

Thrusters curdling salt ribbons

Vibrations moving aftwards

Listing, turning, sideways

Shifting bulks of hull

White-lettered, rust-streamed

Buttressed by bruised belting

Bitten by sharp wave-blows

Chewed by pier-piles

Gnawed by linkspans

 

Messages crackle

Across evening winds

As the lark summons nature

In the litany of evening

Over darkening machairs

 

Fumes trail lightly

From the flat-lined funnel

Red block spewing

Hazes of blackness

Into orange skylines

Upwards into vapours

 

Sunlight burns plates

To golden reflections

Upon green seafields

Hull pulling shorewards

 

A shadow discernible

Framed in high glass panels

Lightly pushes levers

Controls the movements

Of this floating mass

Of unpredictable destiny

 

Rituals are observed

Ropes taut with tension

Stress creates connection

Constrains the parting

 

I stand expectantly

By the old manse

Solid viewer of spiritual seascapes

Watching each motion

 

Alone by predetermined choice

Below the birds’ psalmody

Freely observing, recording

This technical mating

With its fine precisions

Contending with hard-wired images

Urges ingrained over centuries

Of sea-watching optimism

 

Wheels squeak concrete tunes

With drumming thunder

Upwards, downwards

Over the linkspan

On prescribed pathways

Each driver purposeful

Knowing the way

Outwards, inwards

Masters of their routes

Navigators of the future

 

Safety announcements

Blast mechanically

Across the sweeping bay

Edged with silver

A sacrificial plume

Puffs skywards

Ropes are slackened

Heaved upwards

 

The ship divorces itself

Lurchingly from the harbour

Belting sprays of foam

 

On pitted pathways

Onwards into sunset

I bump homewards

Watching the world

Fading on the fragile horizon

Broken by distant islands.

 

DEM

 ----------------------------------------------

Looking across the Clyde from Govan

 


 














I squint across the grey-black Clyde;
I set my eyes to close the sight
Of a towering giant in the clouds
And an armadillo keen to fight,

 
As he tries to knock that brute
Right off its perch and claim the brand;
Frankenstein has come to town,
And metal monsters stalk the land.
 

Gaelic voices reach my mind,
Steam whistles sound their piercing shocks:
The Clansman throws her ropes ashore,
And rubs her belting on the docks.
 

They come, they go, as sirens sound,
The traffic of a thousand feet;
Where Highland hearts once throbbed with song,
There’s nothing now but empty street

 
Of ghosts that ply their ancient trade,
Reminding flesh it cannot stay;
The Clansman’s sailed for Tail o’ Bank;
Over Govan dawns a deadly day,
 

Of memories and searching minds,
Seeking life beneath these stones;
‘The church was here, where flats now reign,
And tarmac covers Highland bones.’
 

No ceilidh now in that Town Hall
Where pipes once blasted through the walls;
Where spirits danced and sang and laughed –
A day of deepest silence falls.
 

The armadillo looks around,
Stalking out his newest prey;
That mighty tower comes hurtling down,
While I turn my back and walk away.

 
20.4.2013

-------------------------------------------------

Remembering Ben Parsonage


How often, Ben, were you out on that river,

by day and night, showing mercy to bodies

that had sunk in despair or desperation

or fallen through the nets of time?

How often did you help the helpless,

your varnished boat heeling hard,

as you grappled with the probabilities

of where he or she had been given

a last resting-place

in those grey-dark waters?

 

Your own life was your gift to others,

and, as the river lapped over your gunwale,

you tried all the harder to bring

something out of the darkness,

out of hopelessness you fished

hope for the dead.

 

Ben, no words of mine will ever express

what needs you met, what kindness you showed,

plying your oars with your powerful arms.

 

I think of you again as I see your varnished boat,

an exhibit for day-out visitors.

But how I wish they could see your heart,

look right into its very depths

of love and care and service,

and reflect on that river

and on you.

 

Ben, no words of mine can pay you,

no cargo of gold coming up-river

in a freighter from far lands,

hooting and clanking as she is nudged sideways

to the docks to unload her treasure

would be enough,

it would be impossible.

 

For there are now no docks,

no ships, no life,

and we seem to have become

no-bodies.

We need you again, Ben,

to grapple with our sunkenness,

find our bodies,

and give our river hope.

 

22.4.2013

 ----------------------------------
Colin Paterson (1932-2013)
Former Managing Director, Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd.

When Colin took the helm,
his course was sure;
no gales deterred him,
no false alarms;
he read the compass,
knew the currents,
checked the weather,
calmly said, ‘We’ll sail’.
‘All clear for’ard’
‘Let go aft’.

 

And as we sailed with Paterson,
we saw with wonder in our eyes
a miracle of the seas,
a fleet beyond our imagining,
made for Hebridean harbours
in our time.
 
Colin now sails on,
yet he is here in legacy,
in ‘Isle of Arran’, ‘Isle of Mull’,
‘Lord of the Isles’.
Through storm and swell they sail,
enduring reminder of
great heart.
16.4.2013
-------------------------------------------------------
BUS STOP IN JERUSALEM
In memory of Mary Gardner, killed in a bomb blast in Jerusalem
in March 2011.

Mary, how can we ever forget
That bus-stop in Jerusalem
As you stood
In the crisp sunshine
In the clear skies
In the hope of travelling
Through another of
Life's stages?

The stormy waters
Of Stromness astern,
You sailed southwards
From chilling wind
To equatorial heat;
Shading yourself from sun
You crossed deserts of new words
Brought their energy into order
Crops of faith
Blossoming into
Divine statements
Enriching Ife, changing lives.

That day in Jerusalem,
What were your thoughts,
As you waited at that stop?
The currents of Stromness,
Whirling past?
The Ife language, your tongue
Feeling its way
Round the next headland
With its Hebraic contours?
Your folk in Old Rayne,
Glad you had reached
The Holy City?

Suddenly Shalom exploded
Shattered, sharp fragments
Shone in lurid lights brutally
But briefly.

At that bus-stop in Jerusalem
A stage you lived for
But had not expected
At that moment
Arrived

And in dying
You lived eternally
Ife words ceasing to be flesh
Translated infinitely far
Beyond the ceaseless sorrows of our knowing.
 
 
------------------------------------------


LITTLE GIRL IN GAZA

That mental screen
Of mine
That won't shut down;
The green hues
Of demonic destruction,
In the vividly unstoppable
Subconscious;
With orange flashes
Missiles rain down
Upon my mind.

I try to talk to my mother
Across instant memory loss,
Warm in a community hospital,
Where she still remembers
Sibbald's shop in Maryhill
With apple smells
And bright colours;
Childhood in happy streets
Transcending Alzheimer's.

Flashes tear my mental screen;
Smoke curls up again
Twisting in a lethal pigtail
From a suddenly explosive sunset
While night's terror prepares rubble
For apocalyptic morning light.

Another little girl
Comes to meet me
Face mangled
Hospital overflowing
Doctors shouting
Screams and pain
Trolleys transfusions
A stream of agony
Reaching into history
Preparing a truly
Hellish future.

Will that little girl
Reach ninety?
Will she remember
Sparkling apples
And enticing smells
In happy streets
When she sits confused
And reminiscing?

Or will she see
That demonic green screen
Forever exploding
With red flames
And orange flashes

The stinking fruit of brutal
Vengeful hatred
Her daily nightmare
As she walks the mental street
Of ruined childhood?
------------------


Remembrance Sunday 2012

Today, coughing with a cold,
Unable to join others,
I pity myself;
A chill of winter,
A smell of rain on the wind,
A moment of impermanence,
A sudden feeling of fragility;
Time playing tricks,
... Causing me to dodge bullets,
Imagine enemies.

Outside, the dead
Leaves are sodden.

I was not there
In the rat-filled trenches
In the living Hell
With Howitzer's howl
Bursting eardrums,
Mud flying heavenwards,
Men, horses, wagons
Tumbling, exploding,
Left to rot, sink
In a putrid ocean.

But I saw again that man,
Argyll and Sutherland Highlander,
Kilted, proud with white spats
In the sepia photograph,
His eyes penetrating
Through cracked glass,
Its frame repaired with a rough nail
Where its corner struck the ground,
Digging its own trench
In the cold linoleum.

Harbinger of the telegram
Confirming his fragility;
The bullet from Arras
Hurtling onwards
Unstoppable,
Going through his parents'
Hearts -
And mine.

DEM

 ------------------
 


 

The Crown of King's College

Your crown tonight is a beautiful coronet
elevating my mind above the pavements,
a yellowish-grey jewel in the night
at the top of the tower that protects our education.     ['tur' also means 'sense' in Gaelic]

But what is the source of this strange twilight
which ascends your splendid pinnacles?
A light which does not reach us from above,
but climbs upwards in conflict with our nature?

This new illumination that overspreads us
with a skill unknown to [Ewen] MacLachlan,         [Gaelic scholar and librarian]
which adds polish to the stones' surface,
and extracts admiration from false beauty.

Give me once again the depth of the stone,
grey as it is, with no extraneous light;
give me once again the crown of the intellect,
with the sparkle of deep, powerful knowledge.



 







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

 

 

 

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