Memories

The winds sighs in the needled boughs
The heather bends in the breeze
Yellowed grass of winter
on the dry moorland

The similarity is there
But so is the dissimilarity
No bogs or hags
to trap the unwary

Well paved trails
traverse the moors
the traffic roars
on a distant highway

Out on the moors
wherever they be
my mind wanders free
The freedom of the open sky

A dome of blue
clouds scudding along
the solstice sun
setting in a bed of gold

The unminding traffic
continual in its onward journeys
taking the place of the sea
which has not stopped ever

Not all that were here once
are still around now
their memories remain
in the woods and the moors

Much like in the islands where
they remember those gone on ahead
out at sea or through wizened old age
alive in our memories though

The German Ocean

The road beckoned
And the roar of the sea
in the distance
beyond the dunes

I was tempted
to walk to the sea
not much further
from where the foxes play

But it's the German Ocean
cold and grey
far away
from the Atlantic shores

The isle of green and white
is washed by it
always luring beyond
the sandy dunes

For those in the northwest
It's only cold
where Davy Jones
holds many in his locker

Fallen to the enemy
when it stalked the
gun metalship grey
seas of the German Ocean

Long have those years
passed - the enemy
now our friend and neighbour
both having learned from old mistakes

The shadow lingers though
where the breakers roar
along the sandy shores
of the Low Countries


Christmas bells

A warm southerly breeze
brought the joyful sound
of pealing bells
summoning to worship
those that would not normally come

Some bells were silenced
their halls now empty,
put to other use,
Others newly cast
sending out their call across the land

Another Christmas has arrived
will it make any difference at all?
Some only recently began to observe
others don't think it's that big a deal
did he die then for our sins today?

The bell in the forest
matches the bell near the distant sea
A watchnight service they call it there
but the purpose is the same
Rejoice! Christ was born today.

The forest

An avenue of trees
reaching high into the skies
marching on for many a step
immutable it seems

Their crowns are rustled
by the wind
Their bows sway and creak
As if talking amongst themselves

A uniform carpet underfoot
of rustled brown leaves
A memory
of sunny summer days

I cannot see
beyond their eaves
the wind is that of land
blowing ever further away

Here the sea is to my west
well beyond my line of sight
even the belvedere on top of hill
only shows rivers from afar

Parallel

From the land of rushlined streams
Broad rivers meandering
below an endless horizon
My mind drifts north

Over the forests
where boar and deer
roam freely,
perhaps too much so

Beyond the dammed sea
and the part-time waters
the isle of white and green
is a stepping stone

To the distant northwest
which beckons from afar
in rainclad grey
with water flowing freely

Reflected in the lowering skies
of the low land of woods
the land of heather
like in the northwest

A different Castle Town

Quickly the cloud obscured
the familiar sights of town
as the plane ascended
away from the airport

The fog curls slowly
among the trees
and buildings
of another Castletown

I'll miss the island's
bleak austere beauty,
from a contrasting landscape
far away from the sea

Coire Geurad

Calmly the waters curve away
overshadowed by tall hills
wavelets lapping at the shores
where peat overhangs the water

Endless pale blue skies
arch over the distant scene
wisps of ephemeral cloud
imperceptably drape the dome of sky

The river babbles over rocks
as it flows its short course
down from one loch
into another

Barely cresting the mountain tops
themselves under a veil of snow
the sun tracks its solstice course
to disappear within seven hours

Lumps of rocks on Coltreasal
seemingly in a haphazard heap
speak of lives long since gone
forgotten summers, a distant echo

They were happy there, long moons ago
Preparing for hard winters
In the bounty of summer
on the shores of Coire Geurad

Winterstorm

Thundering along seemingly without end
the wind roars a steady beat
shaking roofs and houses
blowing squalls at rapid intervals

Day breaks in gunship metal grey
clouds scud along
from southwest to northeast
until a crescendo drowns the scene

Wind never ceasing
as the sheep know to huddle
and folk stay behind doors
lights on all day, both inside and out

Darkness has fallen
was it ever daylight?
hail clatters on windows
their patter lulls to sleep

Awake in the small hours
what's wrong - can't sleep
After a moment it becomes clear
The wind is gone, the squalls have ceased

Day breaks in colours
Not a breath of wind
A blue dome of sky
Unbroken by cloud

Red martyrdom

The warrior prince
with Divine imperative
sailed north in a hurry
out of sight of home

His acolytes joined him
and proceeded further
once he had settled
at the island of I

The Isle of the Notch
found a monastery
on its eastern shore
not to the liking of its ruler

The abbot was warned
upon leaving his master
Martyrdom awaits you
Its colour is red

The queen of the island
her wrath had no bounds
sent her corsairs
to finish the monks

Found at prayer
they requested a respite
until their submissions
had ended

Soon after
their lives had been ended
put to the sword
the queen was triumphant

Sailed over from Moidart
she came up to gloat
Intrigued by that glow
over the new-dug graves of the monks

She followed the light
unaware of its movement
up into the hills
and into the water

Loch nam Ban Mora
now holds her mortal remains
For fulfilling Columba's prediction
of Donnan's red martyrdom

Only the rowan remains

Only the rowan remains
beside the ruined walls
the gable end
the broken roof

Only the rowan remains
where empty windows
look out towards
the setting sun

Only the rowan remains
where happiness once ruled
stepping through the door
which has long since disappeared

Only the rowan remains
remembering the joys of new life
excited children's voices
swinging from its branches

Only the rowan remains
when sadness came to call
seeing them off on distant journeys
or on that final journey of them all

Only the rowan remains
beside many a ruined homestead
the holder of its memories
the keeper of its charms

Only the rowan remains
under sun, rain or wind
forever looking up the road
forlornly awaiting their return

Only the rowan remains
the watcher of many places
but not knowing
that they will never return

To that place by loch. hill or moor
From whence they set forth once
to other places near and far
for only the rowan to remain
 
Photo: Only the rowan remains
beside the ruined walls
the gable end
the broken roof

Only the rowan remains
where empty windows
look out towards
the setting sun

Only the rowan remains
where happiness once ruled
stepping through the door
which has long since disappeared

Only the rowan remains
remembering the joys of new life
excited children's voices
swinging from its branches

Only the rowan remains
when sadness came to call
seeing them off on distant journeys
or on that final journey of them all

Only the rowan remains
beside many a ruined homestead
the holder of its memories
the keeper of its charms

Only the rowan remains
under sun, rain or wind
forever looking up the road
forlornly awaiting their return

Only the rowan remains
the watcher of many places
but not knowing
that they will never return

To that place by loch. hill or moor
From whence they set forth once
to other places near and far
for only the rowan to remain

Storm

A thunderous roar
in the chimney
blows ash and soot down
nearly smothering the fire below

White spray flies
horizontally over the seawall
as waves furiously crash
against sea defences

Angry white riders
charge mightily in from afar
their cohors forbiddingly
assail the fortress of cliffs

Passage on foot
is well-nigh impossible
the harbour is full of
the sea empty of boats

For now we are once more
an island
the ferry tied up
and the shops empty

Looking north

Don't think I don't think back
when I was looking out over water
but facing north
rather than south

The long water west
ending below far-off Roineabhal
The townships across the loch
near, but still so far

Walking the roads at dusk
the distant mountains in white
freezing cold air blown in
as lit up from the east

Limpid depthless mirrors
named in a to me yet foreign tongue
scattered amidst countless hillocks
interspersed by peaty streams

At the end of the road
stands a small memorial tower
remembering a struggle for land
which remains unforthcoming

But little stirs amidst the moors
Only remain those that went on ahead
Their final resting place by the sea
which was, or took, their life

Don't think I have forgotten
the lure of those winter moors
under the pale light
of the short solstice day

Hunted

Running
through
the long grass
under stones

Wind blows
ruffles
white fur
running

Eating
nibbling
yellowed grass

Yellow

Far seeing
short dash
between stones

Black talons
hanging down

Wind whispers
of danger
from above

Running fast
eating mosses
dashes under rocks

Wind howls
through the gaps
between stones
of refuge

Can't stop
must run
there's green grass
by those rocks

Wind rises
to a galeforce
crescendo
bearing the black wings

Eating the grass
nibbling --------

The force 9 gale
easily lifted the
golden eagle from
the summit of Rapaire

Hanging from its talons
the bloodied lifeless form
of a white
mountain hare

Encounter

I found you on the mountain path
below the frowning crags
looking out over
the long water

The way was steep
to me
but of no consequence
to you

A shadow flew down
from behind
the steep cliff
but kept well away

Its talons destined
not to take you
I glanced around
at the mountains

Something you were
not aware of
Staying hidden
from the dreaded eyes

Swooping down
unseen
unwarned of
to the next hour

I touched you
but you did not move
perhaps you sensed
I kept harm at bay

Not long after
I glanced up
as I continued
my long way down

Rapaire
Stulabhal
crowned over
where you hid

A mouse

Grimersta

The water twinkled
as the sun beamed down
the river flowed fast
as the walked south

The bothy stood
beyond the stones
a few steps in water
and we'd be there
2005-05-13P0253
We passed on south
as the blue sky
reflected in
a thousand shifting mirrors

A whirlwind blew
a circle in
the swirling waters
thence hissing in the grass

Hand in hand we headed
along the fields of heather
towards the pyramid
of Roineabhal
2005-05-13P0260
At Eilean Mhor I called
but you did not respond
the sun growing hazy
beyond the nearby hills

I could not wait
to cross the deep waters
you had gone
disappeared - were you ever there?

The gloomy waters
rapidly flowed
as I gained the far side
below frowning Roineabhal
2005-05-13P0262
As I climbed the hill
nothing stirred
on the shores of Eilean Mhor
Did I abandon you?

Did you abandon me
For the youth of Coire Geurad
to chase the hares
far south on the slopes of Rapaire?
2005-05-17P0287

Traigh Mhor

Miles of long strand
stretch under the
lowly, green-clad dunes
south from the river

A jagged line of teeth
denote the mountains
on the distant mainland
beyond the cold water

Higher the dunes rise
steeply from the sand
Houses now appear
beyond their yellow crests

Looking north
from their final place of rest
the markers of the dead
espy the cape of turning

Men of the sea
at rest near the shore
not just here
elsewhere too

The strand closes
where lives lie closed
the only way is up
not just for the living

December dusk

Short hours of daylight
already coming
to a close under
pink-hued skies

The barren branches
stand out against
the pale dome of
the coming night

What warmth is left
goes with the sun
a crisp layer of white
a sheen of ice on water

Fading into the
darkness from th eeast
replaced by twinkling
light of distant stars

Quietly the ship glides
across the waters
heaving slowly
off a far-off swell

Its lights drift
into the safety of port
as we close out the night
until the coming of dawn

Taransay

The pale light
of the northern sun
shimmers on the
blinding white sand

Abandoned
within sight
not within sound
the dark brown shape

Tumble-down walls
snake over its moors
Gable ends
stand out against the sky

Like a dog
left outside the door
the island
lies just off the mainland

Whose lofty peaks
jagged along
the northern skyline
a barrier too

For one years was there
continuous habitation
Create a community
they said

But St Taran's isle soon
lay alone again
off the bright sands
of West Harris

Langadale

The path of leisure
slowly rises
from the bovine village
at the side of the sea

Mountains loom closer
Stulabhal's hump
blocking the western sky
before the valley is reached

Lonely Langadale
overshadowed by
dark looming peaks
light only from the north

The only way out is up
And Stulabhal's cliffs
frown whichever
way you go

Teileasbhal I once stood upon
I crossed from Bunabhainneadar
I crossed to Bhoisimid
and from Langabhat

But I shall always return
from whichever direction
to stand by the river
in Langadale

Be mine

Be mine
I said to you
in the warmth
of the summer sun

The lambs cavorted
around their patient mums
as the machair stunned
in a myriad of colours

Be mine
I said to you
as the gale raged
through the autumn rain

Clouds racing east
Thundering surf
pounding the coast
of the west

Be mine
I said to you
as the snow crisped
under our feet

Only two colours
above the blanket of snow
Dark branches of trees
awaiting the return of the sun

Be mine
I said to you
as days equalled nights
and the chill was chased north

But the promise was broken
And as Orion left the night sky
with Scorpio taking his place
You left me, and so did the light

Iolaire, 4 December 2012

A heap of stones
by a stone spike
looking down
on a limpid sea

Like distant boats
the islands sail
along the horizon
far to the south

The sun twinkles
in countless mirrors
as it slowly sinks
to its solstice bed

The waters flow
slowly to reveal
a rock or two
under the other spike

Not unlike
a stony leviathan
lurking in the
seas down below

The wind rises
in a bullying crescendo
wintry squalls
obscuring the lights

Which is which?
Rona, Milaid
Arnish, Tiumpan
The time: 1.55 am

Iolaire, December 2012

Cold
water
waves
wind


Sea
rock
ship
wreck

Shore
swell
down
death

Dawn
calm
light
survived

http://www.adb422006.com/iolaire.html

Langabhat

A lone trail
angles up by the stream
steeply
up into the mountains

Leading nowhere
ending nowhere
except by the shore
of the lonely loch

It carries those
who come for sport
to carry back meat
what once was a stag

It carries others
who fish upon the loch
overshadowed
by the montains

The long water
born of streams
sourced high in the hills
stretching to near RĂ²ineabhal

Finally to cascade
down to the sea
near the old circle
of standing stones

But Langabhat
At the heart of the island
crowned by the mighty Harris hills
continues to hold me captive

Footsteps in the snow

A thin layer of snow
greets the first light
of the winter morning
dawning late in pink hues

A line of footsteps lead
from the blackhouse
down the slope
and to the water

A swirl of smoke
writes in the pale
northern sky
telling a story

For no footsteps
have yet returned
for several days
the sea has been empty

A stack of peat
dwindling over months
more carried to the fire
as it softly crackles its tale

Over the hilltop
the smoke drifts
looking down the sealoch
where no movement is seen

Only some driftwood
out by the headland
nothing on the slow swell
is that a sail in the water?

None knows what befell
the boat at the headland
except the fire glowing dully
and the smoke

Gently drifting
over the scene of loss
Forming
A wreath

Cianalas

The whistle blows
the chorus reaches a crescendo
The steamer slowly backs
away from the quay

Faces quickly lost from sight
on the quay to those aboard
on board to those ashore
The last farewell's been said

As the town disappears from sight
Some will not see it again
A thought at the back
of the mind of all

Even longer ago
Departing hardly voluntarily
Forced by hands of gold
to abandon the land of heather

The certainty was even greater
As were the distances
for deportation
after the clearance

But whether for war
for compulsion
or to seek a better life
The yearning back remains

Dodging the torpedo of the enemy
Espying the shoreline of a distant land
or the smoking stacks of cities
The image remains alive

So when victory is sounded
And the opportunity appears
for the journey back northwest
To once more greet what's home

The old harbour
The empty moorland
The hills rising behind the croft
You're home

Time

Slowly the clocktower
chimes out the hours
But hours do not count
when you go with the tide

What's hidden at high water
lies exposed 6 hours later
Irrespective of the hands
on a timepiece

Where barrels once stacked
and fish were packed up
Cars are now left
by those crossing the sea

Only a statue reminds
of the hard hard workers
As the water rises below
and falls twice a day

A curtain of rain
hides the lighthouse from view
As much as the future
is obscure to us all

Saturday morning

Stripes painted on the ceiling of the skye
Stripes made of grass
now withered
for winter

A steady breeze from the east
paints lines on the water
making for the west
an anomalous run

The last leaves
heroically clinging
to the bushes
lining the road

We have the best weather
with a reputation for the worst
Quite good for late November
Winter, though, is nigh

Cold

The deepening cold
stretches its thin fingers
south from the land of fire
past the islands of sheep

Breathing its chill winds
over the ancient rocks
of the heathery isle
a snow flake drifts

More of them follow
swirling calmly
in the lights of the
town and beyond

The lighthouse blinks
but its beam now lost
As the wind slowly rises
a blizzard comes in

Dawn breaks
and the sun rises late
showing a blanket of white
stretching far, far south

Maimie

I know it well
that reef
standing proud
at low tide

Sheltering the bay
overlooked by the graveyard
overlooked by the lighthouse
well-marked for mariners

That night, 50 years ago
darkness hid the reef
from the eyes of the
boatman venturing forth

Into the teeth of a rising gale
which drove his craft
aground on the reef
within sight and sound

of those ashore who would
but could not help
The wind rose so high
The waves rose even higher

Rags ablaze signalled SOS
A ceaseless scream
awoke all around
but the boatman

He came ashore
his life left him in the sea
His companions still safe aboard
As tide, wind and waves fell

A beautiful morn
Sea twinkling innocently
But the wreck of the Maimie
Still high up on Sgeir Mhor

Grulin

Photo: Happy were the folk
in the village under the cliff
tending their kyne
leading their lives

The girl was following the path
when the lad came out
he spoke sweetly
and she was soon in thralls

Love is blind
so she did not espy
his strange attire
or misshapen feet

He took her to the
distant loch
high in the mountains
behind the cliff

When she was missed
her kinfolk came looking
only to find her body
in the water

Hoofprints led away
from a circle of seaweed
None dared follow
the kelpie and his prey
Happy were the folk
in the village under the cliff
tending their kyne
leading their lives

The girl was following the path

when the lad came out
he spoke sweetly
and she was soon in thralls

Love is blind
so she did not espy
his strange attire
or misshapen feet

He took her to the
distant loch
high in the mountains
behind the cliff

When she was missed
her kinfolk came looking
only to find her body
in the water

Hoofprints led away
from a circle of seaweed
None dared follow
the kelpie and his prey

Grey

Grey
whichever way you look
Yellow
a distant light

Piercing the curtains
that are drawn
over our little town
November gloom

Wind
Blows impatiently
Ruffling the sea
in the direction of its force

Faded
the light of day
Barely started
Streetlights still - or already - on

Late November dusk

As daylight fades
from the east
Towers of clouds
line the far horizon

A sliver of moon
plays hide and seek
with shreds of
remnant cloud

The sun slowly heads
southwest towards its
colourful bed
set amidst distant cloud

The first gusts of
nighttime winds
shake droplets from
bare branches

Faint streetlights
illuminate and reflect
darkened streets
where few venture forth

Berneray

Down the long beach
we ran
In the summer
of endless sun

Innocence shone down
in the benign
light of evening
when darkness never came

The islands winked
at us from near
and from further away
cloudcapped to the north

Nothing could change
as the sun smiled
setting in the west
of autumn

The exhileration of
a fierce November gale
bound us together on
that boundless strand

Softly fell the
white snow of winter
as our footsteps
trailed us home

The light faded
that winter
when events far away
came to touch us here

As the crown of clouds
settled over the Clisham
a dark form rolled
in the surf on the beach

One of many to wash up
lost in the war
far out at sea
to the menace from the deep

We found him
No mark or name
His last resting place
by the timeless chapel

't Was also where
the lesson was learned
as our innocence drifted
away on the outgoing tide

Barvas

A line of four hills
on the southern horizon
The endless sea
stretching out north

The old land falls
from the cliff edge
to its ruins
the sea toys with the stack below

A single line of houses
along the edge of the loch
another line marching
on the opposing skyline

The moorland waters drain off
to rest for a while
in the shallow waters
before merging with the ocean

Ever moving
never still
motion born
of long dead storms

Trains of white riders
charging the shore
A bullying wind
batters the cowering homesteads

Stretching uphill
to end at the church
views opening out
west along the coast

Like so many places
in these old islands
it's given up its people
to seek riches abroad

Or pledge fielty unto death
For a distant king
The village awaits
The return of the departed

Whether in this life
or in the one beyond
At the setting of the sun
Or at the Breaking of the Day

Pentland Road

A ribbon of black
threads across
the trackless moor
hugging contours

Distant hills
looming either side
blue pieces of glass
reflecting the high sky

Dark blankets roll away
in green, yellow, brown
and black to the horizon
waiting to be cut for fuel

The road forks
where rocky hillocks crop out
angling down along the riverbank
and coming to end at the pierhead

Sunset

Golden rays caress the sky
languid clouds
slowly moving east
an ever-changing mosaic

A cooling breeze
gently touches
the hilltop, slowly turning
brown as autumn progresses

Greens of leaves
makes way for the
grey of denuded
treebranches

Greens of grasses
turn yellow then
fade into the
background of blackened heath

The wind reminisces
as the sun bids us good night
angling its rays ever higher
airbrushing the sky pink

Slowly, colour fades
from the skye, the hills
the sea
Night has fallen

Tides

Low tide
The bar stretches
across the entrance to the basin
a rapid outflow the sole break

An old engine
now just a lump of rust
with a few floats
attached

Dirty mud with stones
seaweed
empty shells
gulls squawking

A squirt of water
scallops
other inhabited shells
try not to stand out

Six hours later
Only water
All else aforementioned?
Under 17 feet of water

Heron

Along the water's edge
Stepping on tall legs
Looking for
a meal

in

the

water

SNAP!

Lazily, the heron
flies off to its
nest
in the treetops

Autumn day

Rivers running down the glass
Distorting the view outside
A rapid patter of drops
and an impatient buffeting by wind

Visibility quite poor
but there isn't much to see
today is an autumnal day
as chill makes way for mild

Darkness falls near four fifteen
and daylight's getting very short
Six weeks left till solstice day
and we'll hunker down some more

Bowed down into the wind
Minimising time outside
warmed by a cosy fire
ignoring mother nature's ill temper

Remembrance Sunday

They gather round
under clearing skies
remembering those
gone on ahead

Through war and strife
the trumpet sounds
and all fall silent
to contemplate

The sun comes out
and the trumpet calls
Awake!
A new day dawns

The wreaths remain
We will remember
Their today
For our tomorrow

Lewis War Memorial

Twenty-three plaques
More than fiteen hundred names
Standing in a circle
Below a prominent tower

Looking out over the town
Over the Minch
which they all had to cross
but never to return

Looking out over the island
At the villages near and far
From where they flocked
Eagerly but with hidden trepidation

In a circle near the top
their names are remembered
Parish by parish
In each World War

On land, in France or Mesopotamia
Out at sea, in the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean
In the skies over Britain and Europe
or even further from home

But closest to home
Within view of the tower now
The two hundred who drowned
at Holm Point, as 1919 started

Twenty-three plaques
More than fifteen hundred names
Remembered by theirs
Remembered by us all

Calum Zachary

Hey, where are you?
Need a word, real quick
You and I, well, what do you say?
Be together for good

But listen, we're poor
Can't get any land
Your folks have so little
splitting it would leave even less

Don't get me wrong, though
I'll be yours alright
We are as one
And will always be

Look, come look, who's that?
He's here for the money
What my dad hasn't got
Hasn't had for so long

Hey, where are you?
Got some news, bad and good
We've got to leave the island
Dad's been turned off his land

Come with me tonight
Nothing left here for us
We'll start a new life together
Take our chance, wherever

They were to meet on the pierhead
To start afresh somewhere
The moon set early though
and darkness shrouded all

He could not find his lady
She could not find her man
He therefore went to America
without his love by his side

His name was Calum Zachary
A name living on in song
echoing his loss
across the waves and years

To Canada

The man walked down the road
his knapsack slung over his shoulder
although he had gained some land
he had lost his neighbours

There had been only one way out
to Canada
Cutting down trees
building the Pacific railway

Gratitude had led to this separation
for the man left his family behind
sending back money
that he had earned over there

His neighbours were behind with the rent
And as he had saved the proprietor's life
The reward was a piece of land
taken off his neighbours' croft

The man did not ask for a reward
even less for more land
however useful
And certainly not at the expense of his neighbour

So he walked down the road
His family staring after him
As he disappeared in the distance
Never to return

9 November

Light fills the room
refracted by hundreds of
finely cut crystals
hanging from the chandelier

A fire demurely crackles
in the hearth
filling the room
with warmth and comfort

A waltz gently plays
and couples glide
in tender embrace
along the polished floor

Darkness rules outside
as does the November chill
wafting along city centre streets
with marked windows

Light flares up rudely
as a bonfire shoots tongues
of fire into the night sky
illuminating the scene

Light flares up further
refracted by thousands
of crystals scattered
along streets of darkness

Gaping mouths where windows were
Glass pulverised into countless crystals
Fire spreads
consuming the culture

Books are burned
their writers were deemed unfit
for the country whose Leader
sought to exterminate

The millions of fragments
of broken glass, of crystal
scatter the light of the fire
burning the synagogues

Soon the worshippers
will follow the fate of their temple
The light of the fire
overshadows the continent

Dying into dull embers
the dancers fade into shadows
as the light goes out over Europe
on Kristallnacht

Stulaval

Now derelict on the shore of Loch Reasort
Little Luachair stands
Years back a carpenter came
over the hills from Bowglass

After job's end he was left
with some planks
which he carried back
below the frowning cliffs

A sound of hammerblows
echoed below the face
of stern Stulaval
Regular and slow

Turning around
the carpenter espied
nothing
and nobody

But the tapping
continued
Soon he descended
over the hills into Vigadale

Reached home but
his hearth was cold
and nobody around
except his wife, no longer alive

The carpenter hammered
his wife's coffin
An echo of the hammerblows
Below cold Stulaval

In spring

I met you on the rising road
that sunny afternoon in April
Innocent eyes looking up
as I looked down

The dark mountains loomed
over the deep waters
under the rays of the
springtime sun

A first spring with
gentle winds from
the distant seas
carrying aloft the shadows

Their calls mocked
at what they had taken
not caring, in fact
relishing and enjoying

She was expiring
as I approached
only a step or two
from the roadside edge

You did not know
but looked at me to explain
what was beyond your days
and was to befall you too

The sun shone through
the pink ears of the young lamb
The ewe was breathing its last
after being blinded by crows

A dreich day

Light fades over the islands
Grey to greyer still
not a ray of
sunshine to be had today

The drizzle hides
what isn't that far off
the breeze shakes
the now bare branches

From sun-soaked seas
to the northern Hebrides
a final hint of distant
summer wafts our way

Soon the edge of mild
will move away east
leaving us with crisp
and once more chill

A grain of hail
a splash of wet snow
winter draws near
dark at half four

Look north for the
merry dancers
a moving green
curtain down from the pole

Even further north
beyond the land of fire
no sunshine at all
on solstice day

The Pabbay boat

Row boys, row!
We're going out again
The sail will help us on our way
Out to the fishing grounds

Look, there goes another boat
They too are venturing forth
Can't be too bad a day
If we're all out here just now

Ominous grey clouds
scudding on the rising wind
soon touching galeforce
soon right up to stormforce

From the open ocean
Squalls of rain fly past
The islands loom up to the west
Now shrouded from sight

Row boys, row!
We've got to turn back
if we can
The sail has gone

Did you see the others?
Not for quite some time
Never mind, keep bailing
We may yet have a chance

Two days the storm lasted
nobody could put to sea
the herring was left uncaught
as the boats remained in port

The boat from Mingulay
weathered the storm to return
to their island
safe and well

Pabbay lost ALL
its menfolk
that May Day in 1897
all in one boat

Flat calm

Flat calm
Upside down
in the water
Indistinguishable

Reflections
or original
Even the lighthouse
perhaps even the mountains far-off

Benign clouds
slowly move
on an unseen
but unfelt wind

A small boat
carves through
the mirror which
quickly resmoothes

Dusk slowly
overtakes and dulls
the reflections of
daytime

To be replaced
by the high moon
of nearing winter
Enoy the calm - while it lasts

Sunday

The grey canopy
breaks to the southeast
A promise of sunshine
over the mainland hills

A gentle rain
falls over grey streets
calm and movementless
a Sunday morning

Worshippers proceed
to church in an orderly
fashion, quietly so
to beseech blessings

Whether He listens
is up to Him to decide
Most appear favoured
others are oblivious

Should we go somewhere
on the day of rest
None are disturbed
Peace has remained

Our link to the world
will sail in the afternoon
Another link takes to the air
But none are disturbed

November

Low sun
pale blue sky
bare branches
a cold wind

Dark green losing
colour to palest hue
Leaves gently
drift down

Demure yellow
before falling
Standing out
in final glory

Riches in berries
seeds being scattered
in the blanket of leaves
new life in waiting

Dark clouds speed in
the wind lifts its voice
the command is heeded
Leaves scatter

Distant hills don
their white caps
the sun now sets early
ice glazes what rain has wetted

The signal is raised
The window is open
For the voice of the North
To sing the final of the year

The clearance

Let's have some cuts
can't sustain all that lumber
I'm not here to provide
for those that can't help themselves

Back when Napoleon strode
the battlefields of Europe
we needed gunpowder
and only kelp would do

I had those natives
along the shoreline cutting
seaweed for me for
just a few bob

They didn't need much land
but now they're just sitting there
eating out of my pocket
leaving me out of pocket for all the meal

Going forth and multiplying
well, they can go on daddy's croft
divide, subdivide
and rule

I want my money out of them
Can't get it from anywhere else
Can't afford to be seen to be less rich
So they can't afford the rent?

Gone round the villages
Who's in arrears, off you go
We'll cancel what's owed
if you go to America

Here is the ship
you can take so much
leave the rest behind
including your relatives

Don't want to go, how dare you
Torch to the roof
Milk on the fire,
OK, we'll let you bury your dead

The statue stands grand
in the deserted glen
Green fields of grass
Rolling hills around

The statue stands grand
in the Canadian city
The achievements celebrated
of those boldly gone forth

Did they want to leave their
humble homesteads
where their forefathers
lived happily?

Achievements for sure
Many did great things
in the land of the prairie
But why not in their homeland?

Callanish

Sun and moon
seasons' cycle
winter snow
round to autumn rain

Marked out in stones
high on the ridge top
two dozen others
not far away

Aligned to distant hills
obscuring the moon
when the nights
are not dark

One was interred
in the centre circle
where he is now, none know
but not there for sure

They come now from far-off lands
to visit the stones
celebrate the sunrise
at solstice, forgetting the moon

All is quiet
as the days shorten
winds batter the circle
impervious to what passes

They have seen many
pass by
never returning
They will remain

The old cemetery

A rusty gate
from the sandy dunes
A wall of stone
on all four sides

A rock-strewn hillside
inside
The sea incessantly
speaks from the shore

Strange
no rocks
outside the walls
just flower-clad sands

Rolling away
in every direction
down to the ocean
their ancient roadway

Living from the bounty
of the ever-present sea
it would exact its price
giving change - wreckage on the shore

Living in penury
but happily
demure hamlets
strung out to the north

Poor ground prompted
a move inland for summer
gathering fuel
before the storms came

Unknown were the riches
in money and goods
Riches in happiness and
the strength of kinship

Only a rock
remains within walls
a mark of ending
to remember their days

Nine thousand you'll find
on that rock-strewn hillside
No carved tombstone
Just a rock

Chessmen?

Village by the sand
hiding the ninety-one
pieces carved from ivory
brought in from across the sea

Men from the north
left them for us to guess
their play with the future
after they had gone from these shores

Leaving behind only names
for the villages along the shores
the hills, bays and inlets
no further trace was left

Except the ninety-one
in the sand by the village
along the bay that named a whole district
Were they chessmen?

The circle of peat

Distant summers
Forgotten breezes
Rains long since flowed to sea
The autumns of years

Green growth
Long grass
First yellow
Now brown

Moss capturing moisture
Deepening below
Cracks open in drought
Disappear in wet seasons

The memory of years
cut with the spade
dried over weeks
as the sun rises high

Stacked by the house
prepared for winter
to release warmth
when the cold wind blows

Smelling of springtime
smoke drifts away
the cycle completes
the circle of peat

Arnol

Empty windows look out on the yellowed grass
Panes blown out in a forgotten gale
Tiles disappearing from the roof
But no one is caring

The ocean thunders onto distant cliffs
A moving wreath around the western coast
An army of white riders incessantly
assail the crumbling fortress that is shore

Sagging poles carry rusting wire
No longer delineating the patch
of infertile, poor, unsustaining ground
where once cattle and sheep grazed

The door has gone, a void beyond
Another frame behind, also unshuttered
Countless rocks from the empire of
sonte, yet choked with rocks the ground remains

Walls stand up, bewildered now that
the roof has vanished, perhaps
a beam remains, collapsed into
the ruin below

A squall blows in, the scene darkens
no shelter here, in the old dwelling
an echo of years gone by
left as an in memoriam

Fled the yoke of the man in the castle
his cruel minions who cared not
to improve the lives of those
he was in charge of caring for

A distant gun echoes, multiplying the life it took
by countless millions, including
those who answered the call
from the humble abodes out here

Now crumbling slowly, remembering
the golden days of long sunshine and warmth
laughter, singing, merry-making
love, kinship and bonds

Some crossed the seas for better lives
Never to return to the humble home
Looking down to the shoreline below
Remembering all who departed

Home is the island

Distant shapes on the eastern horizon
The mainland hills, rarely well defined
Far-off mountains beckoning
Sometimes speaking of winter's cold

Alluring to some, in search of great riches
Seeking a better life beyond their range
The lights of the big city
Moving fast, gaining the high life

Dashing up the social ladder
The comforts of a well-filled purse
Poverty, though, is not just monetary
And fair-weather does not filter your friends

But even when all seems so good
One thing though is missing
It'll always be there, on the western horizon
With the lighthouse beaming its call at dusk

As the ferry leaves Loch Broom behind
And Sutherland's mountains recede in the distance
Tiumpan and Arnish winking their welcome
As the boat glides towards the pier

Familiar faces and familiar buildings
The quiet streets in the dim streetlamps' light
The dark roads beyond town but comforting
Home at last, and here to stay

Hurricane!

Overhead in the sky beating down
the sun radiates its immeasurable heat
absorbed by the waters of this world
gradually warming - east to west

Cloudless skies show countless suns
at an inconceivable distance
reaching there would be
after the end of this planet

Rising from the surface of the ocean
evaporated water, using
some of the sun's heat to escape
higher up into the sky

Reverting back to liquid
releasing the energy again
Towering nearly a dozen miles up
A shard of lightning leaves a trail of thunder

As our world turns, so do the storms
Winds being to blow, higher
The eye up above espies
the signal given - formation alert

The heat from the water now channels
right to the top of the clouds
which have cooled in sharp contrast
Turbulence rises, a storm is born

Dark clouds arrive
over the tropical horizon
Limpid heat blown away
in amazing fury

Rain lashes horizontally
Trees bend if not snap
Hunker down, seek shelter
It's over!

Not so
A calm of an hour
Distant roaring amidst
the deceptive sunshine

Opposing winds resume
their path of destruction
until it has passed
leaving but wreckage

The balance is restored
Heat is transferred to the pole of the earth
Through the winds of the cyclone
The safety valve has worked - equilibrium rules

A wet day

Hueless grey drapes across the skies
Uniform in colour, or lack of it
The sun, wan and without warmth,
peeps through the veil a final time

A single drop falls on the ground
followed by countless more
the window soon is streaming
if there was light, the wet road would shine

Darkness comes in well before
the sun heads towards dusk
Lights come on, although it's daytime
Cheerless gloom slowly moves up from the east

The yellow glare of the street lanterns
is softened by the glow of light
reflected by the falling rain
closed out by drawn curtains

A fire dully flickers in the hearth
born of sunshine from when the earth was young
chases the chill of a rainy day
away out and up the chimney

A warning of winter

The last leaves gently float down from the trees
Their dried out husks rustle along the ground
in the cold autumn wind, gathering up
in sheltered corners

Proud stand the clouds, with their white crowns
Robes of white and grey flowing
Rain? No, hail and snow, bitterly cold
The north wind carries a deep bite

Slush in secluded corners from
forgotten hailstones, which have omitted
to melt and will freeze
after the setting of the wan sun

A ribbon of black slopes gradually up
angling over the broad shoulders
of the dark grey mountains
No slush here, just a layer of snow

Go carefully, follow the tracks
if not already filled in by new snow
Here where it's high up, winter has come
But it's yet shy of the seashore

Up by the tops, wearing a trial bonnet
of unwashed white
the winds howl unimpeded
shouting an early warning

Come morning, autumn will have returned
No whites, just dark greens, browns and greys
But for how long?
Until winter truly comes.

The bridge to Bosta

Two planks across the rowing boat
A motor car perched precariously
The ferryman rows ponderously
Across the narrow strait with fast flowing water

To work she came, the new nurse for Bernera
Only just on the island an urgent call came
To the house by little Tobson
A young lad lay drowned, claimed by the sea

To no avail did she work to bring him to life
The spirit of life was long gone
A sadness enveloped that house
Close by the double beach

Four times they have tried now
Ever foiled by the tidal currents
Will it work this time round
To drive the bridge’s pillars into the seabed?

The bridge is in place, its engineer proud
The ferryman’s out of a job
Cross the narrows to the Tir Mor
With dry feet and no fear of water

The bridge engineer took the nurse as his wife
And took her far far away
Over the bridge to Tir Mor
And beyond the shores of this land

Never would she reside there again
However much she yearned to one day
Cast her gaze over the wild beach at Bosta
And once more call it home

From the Southern Cross to North Star
Was her last journey beyond this life
The road ended at Bosta
Where now her spirit remains

In memory of Peggy Macleod, 1927-1989

Tir Mor is the local name for the area of “mainland” Lewis south of the Bernera Bridge, containing the villages of Lundale, Crulivig and Earshader.

Bosta

Deep blue seas hurrying through
a narrow channel to the next island
None left there as permanent residents
Only the markers to those gone before

The village in the sand was stirred
by violent winds from the present age
what did it look like, they wanted to know
only guesswork

Yielding an edifice that's stood
the test of time, but failed the one of modernity
Above the sands and past the river
None now live there, others come admiring

A dark storm looms from the northwest
The islands fade in the squalls of winter
Reappearing in blinding clearances
in a white wreath of flying foam

From small to larger the people were moved
To the township southeast, round the minister's manse
Further southeast more ancient a temple
Not to the sun but for observing the moon

Long gone have the people who erected the stones
Long gone are those driven away
At the whim of a minion, not caring
but for his master's pocket

Only the beach now remains
With the islands beyond
And the memory of those gone before
At Bosta

Foggy morning

Wreathing in white and not a sound
Except the intermittent blaring horn
Damp and dank, hiding all
Visibility nil, humidity high

Light increases from the dawn
A wading bird's warbling call
The steady chugging of an engine
But not a thing in sight

The eastern horizon turns golden
The sun arises, and in scorn
rips a tear in the pale white blanket
showing a nearby hillside, part exposed

Slowly, steadily the tears increase
As familiar landmarks reappear
A ship closing in to dock
The quayside with its bollards too

Last to reemerge for distance
The monument on the hilltop yonder
Whilst the lighthouse in bemusement
Watches over the dissipating cloud

Quickly now the wisps disperse
Hiding in the moorland's folds
But even there the sun will come
Victorious into a golden day

The promise

As colour fades from the evening sky
A promise of renewal the next day
Whether sunny, cloudy, rain or snow
Colour will return another morn

The last leaf drifts down to earth
Nuts litter the woodland ground
A promise of renewal the next year
Life will return another day

Winter cold approaches from the north
As daylight hours diminish by the day
Soon white will dominate the land
Accentuating what colour is left

As snow blankets the sleeping soil
And fierce winds strafe the land
Green curtains flow in the distant north
And stars are seen for longer than the sun

But when winter's grasp seems fiercest
Unbreakable it would seem
Green tips pierce the frozen soil
And delicate blooms emerge

From underneath the warm white layer
The promise is fulfilled
And soon the winter cold takes flight
With light and colour restored

Eventually day and night equal in length
The snow retreats to the mountain tops
Life recurs, gambolling in play
As lambs fulfil the promise of life

The boat

Sailing the waters of the far northwest
Braving the elements, fair and foul
Guarding the lives of all on board
Bringing their livelihood safely to shore

Aided by motorpower, perhaps earlier sail
A net from the stern, or a line athwart
Hooks to catch mackerel
A creel for some crabs, or a lobster

Within sight of Suilven, Stac Polly or An Teallach
The Clisham a beacon, high up in Harris
Bowing for the blue men of Shiant
Or bucking in the Atlantic swell

Hastily brought in for that storm of a lifetime
Tethered on a mooring, in safety they thought
Found crashed on the boulders
When the storm had blown itself out

Many's a time I walked by on Goat Island
Ever more pieces went missing each time
Until only the bow remained on the strand
And finally only its soul, winging away to the Minch

Dusk

The crescent moon rides
high in the sunset skies
cloudstreams far above
appear motionless

Reflected in the sea
not ruffled by movement
winking into the night
a reassurance from the lighthouse

A bird slowly glides past
looking for its last meal of the day
Nothing to be seen
darkness is nigh

Wisps of mist slowly drift by
gliding over the water
ghostly appearances
from the now faded day

The hunter now rises
chasing the bull
his two hounds faithful
close by to his east

As he moves to the west
will daybreak ensue
But what will that bring?
Only time will tell

The internees

It seemed like such a good idea
Sign up for the reserves
Already at sea most of the time
An old salt could learn new tricks

More out than in past Arnish
Down by the Shiants
Up near Rona
Sidle up to the Atlantic, unbeatable

Go on exercise every once in a while
Get a nice sum every year
A retainer for being ready
To drop all for king and country

Well, they shot that man way out yonder
And now the world's gone mad
I've got to go down to England
Train up for the real shooting stuff

What's this, I'm told, we're in a Division?
Not at sea but on land
Mr Churchill says so, he's our boss
Down to old Antwerp, halt Jerry Hun

Not in your wildest dreams, we're going back west
Where's that train, oh dear we've missed it
The CO says go north, boys
Let's take our luck, head up into Holland

So here we are in the land of the level
An old city, kind folk
They've got as little food as we get
Horsemeat is about the best we can expect

No fighting for us, we're interned
Some have escaped, back to Blighty they went
Others were let out to help with harvest at home
Came back, as they'd given their word

Hurray! war is over, peace for our time
But we haven't really fought, have we
Our kinsmen and friends fell valiantly
Whilst we chewed the cud in the Low Countries

No, won't mention this ever again

The proprietor

A cupola and statue
Not far from his castle
Looking out east over the harbour
A man who made his mark

Now a marker of Remembrance
then a token of wealth
ruthlessly accumulated
the seedbox of the poppy, and its dried sap

A war was fabricated
in the distant Orient
over the trade in this soporific
this analgesic - this addictive

The benefactor, so hailed by some
Made many an improvement
But selective who would enjoy it
If you were in arrears, off in the boat you went

Decided by his managers
wearing more than thirty hats at once
an impressive act of balancing
an abuse of powers never seen before or since

An arbitrary power of eviction
not always based in law
exercised by those in his stead
compassion and empathy were alien to them

A mixed view from the modern times
of what some term a drugs baron
Others, one who put the island into modern times
Money talks, even to this day

The mill

Moved by the wind or the flowing of water
Grinding of corn, after dark
A meeting place for many in days long ago
None of them left, but in ruins or display

The water still flows, but passes them by
even restored, their wheels stand still
Not now do the villagers need their grinding done here
Far off machines supply all that they need

Only approved would they be allowed
If not, their stones to be broken
What more, the distilling of spirits
The water of life, from the black pot

Suddenly illegal, well, who is to stop
The still by the stream
In the back of the house
Don't breathe one word

The storm

Dark grey and ominous, scudding by low
Sun breaking through, blinding brightness
Parallel lines streaking southwest
Pockmarking the water, running with tide

High in the sky towering tall
Deep freeze above, chilly below
A puddle now forms, where the drain is blocked
The pavement is washed, by each passing motorist

Tide rising high, through sun and moon opposing
Wind rising too, the equinox past
Angry white riders, rearing up tall
Crashing in fury, augmented by wind

The watery road is closed, as the spume flies
Tied up by the pierhead, lights dimmed
Wind rising higher, beyond Beaufort's scale
Soon triple digits, even in imperial

Stones, pebbles, spray, clatter from shore
The walls resonate with the onslaught
Are they still safe, will they keep us
No

Fleeing the elements into the darkness
From which they will never emerge
Sweet and salt water combine
And swept off to oblivion, five they were

That was a bad one, thank heavens it's daylight
My roof's gone, the barn's a wreck
Trees down, power is off
That's nothing.
Where are the five?

Three dozen their number

Long reach the arms of the sea
North from the channel off the isle of the mists
High rise the mountains
As they impotently block passage

Reach to the sky in vertiginous heights
Grey in the clouds, grey the rocks strewn
Brown in heather tumbling down
to a narrow green strip by the water

Three dozen their number, now only two
A ruinous house, the outline of walls
The poorest of ground, in strips parallel
Draining the bogland for crops

Fishing the waters to feed the mouths
Rearing some cattle for milk at the hearth
Three dozen their number, now only two
Where the others go to?

Look for them northward, on divided land
demonstrating the asymptote
the more you divide, the lesser you get
until you're near nothing, in all possible respects

Another sea arm, do not breathe in
You won't fit in your strip of land
You'll be wider than that
Three dozen their number, now only two

Whilst thirty-four cram onto alien shores
And two come and go
Their land went to sheep
But even that was not enough

And the stag now roars his lust
Whilst being chased, shot and gutted - for fun

Three dozen townships teetering
on the edge of existence
on the edge of the sea
pushed to extinction for the greed of another

Napoleon's defeat heralded their demise
Peace took their livelihood
An end to subsistence
An end to life, more than through war

What have we now, in the derelict corner?
A rich man's playground
A rich man's money press
Soon churning out power.

Three dozen their number
Now only two

A walk in the moor

Overcast skies threatening rain
The long line of water dully reflects
the little hamlet on the far bank
Vehicles turn the distant corner
out of sight

The paved roadway dips then rises
Passes the gateway to lose its tarmac
The first lake looms up below
Rocks and debris litter the track

Floodwater impedes progress
Where's the road, where is the moor
Spaghnum between the wheelruts
A deep channel fails to drain from the edge

A fleece and some horns, a skull
In front of a second gate, abandon all hope
The rise ahead reveals a lake, another lake, another lake
Where can we pass - it's a narrow causeway

Distant hills reflect in the water
Doom-laden skies glower to the south
Battleship grey is the surface
A final gate, and now find your own way

Watch you step observe the plantlife
Here you can stand, there is a bottomless lake
Shrouded by virulently green watercress
Beware of the peathags, do not be hasty

One wrong move and you may not be found
Until the next spring - or next century
Feel safe on the heather, hug the contourline
Skirt the bulrushes, circle the lochan

The valley opens out, to the left lies the township
The mountains now close, blocking out the light
Guarding the homesteads, three dozen empty
Lining the shores, now home to the deer

The crossroads is reached, the light starts to fade
The fjord looms ahead, leading out to the sea
Complete, soundless silence
But in safety, back on the road

The far north

Looking out to sea, distant mountains looming
Rolling in from far away, long dark swells
Born of distant winds and currents
Immutable yet ever changing

A demure chapel, long since out of use
A place of devotion, for those no longer there
Once in summer, they would flock there
With their flock of beasts to tend

Rows of lowly houses strung out side by side
Strips of narrow land beyond
Stretching for a mile towards the shore
Where all ends on a precipitate cliff

Sand swirls on the currents
whether in the air or in the sea
Changing coastlines that impercetably crumble
Only the brick tower remains, a tall beacon

The ancient rocks, dating back to earth's beginning
Root the soil, thin and meagre
Where little grows, worthy of mention
Only a sea of flowers, next to the ever-moving sea

Journey's end's beyond the gate
A rock is all that will remain
As tangible reminder of
Those whose footsteps have long faded

Autumn

The golden light of autumn
streams in from the west
puffballs of clouds
sometimes drops of rain

The lanterns of red fuchsia
gently sway in the cool breeze
cripsed leaves float from the sycamore
as autumn closes summer away

The watchers stand reflected
in the mirror of the sea
A beacon to the east
looking out for those seeking guidance

Soon the evenings will have no sun
Orion marching up the nighttime sky
Fierce winds blowing in the winter
Gentle snowflakes on cold solstice air

Your country needs YOU

Come and join us, your country needs you
The old country needs you, come on and go
The Hun is afoot, he'll crush us all
Don't, and you're a coward, here's your white feather

Jump on the train, here is a corner
Have a fag, we'll be in France soon
March down the cobbled roads, the guns are calling
Here is your trench and here is your mud

Go on your ship and join the navy
Oh, you're now a soldier and not a sailor
Missed the train out of Antwerp
Missed the rest of the war interned in Holland

Sailing the seven seas, curse those U-boats
Dodge the torpedoes, strafe the subs
Lest they strafe you or leave you to drown
Better still Jutland, and knock Jerry for six

No volunteers left, not wanting, or all dead?
Draft them in, the dodgers, the malingerers
Push them to Haig's mincers, never mind they be ill
Never mind the trauma, won't go? Shot at dawn.

Givency, Somme, Passchendaele, add some more names
The glory is mud, the terror, the death
Torn to pieces, ripped to smithereens
Over the top, boys, hang in the barbed wire

What's the point, nothing is shifting
Jerry's bled white and so are we
Strategy's to pot, what's that, intelligence?
Throw out some chlorine, damn the wind's turned right round

November eleventh, the eleventh hour
Guns fall silent, the shooting has stopped
The point of it all?
You tell me, I don't goddamn know

The bell tolls


The bell tolls
Hauntingly over the dark moving plain
Fast moving currents of air
and of water
Smash through the doors, flooding

The bell tolls
Its call answered from all corners, echoed
Driven ashore, the boat is stuck fast
The men taken off, on the edge
Taken to safety - the wind still howls

The bell tolls
An alarm call to all
The low tide at high tide level
The barriers stand, but what will hold
Force 12 at springtide flood

The bell tolls
Over torrents of water, flooding
Crumbling barriers, sweeping away all
Islands retaken, the sea reconquers
Lost for centuries, it reclaims within hours

The bell tolls
As dawn breaks, over a sea of death
Houses afloat, byres adrift
Roads washed away, the railway torn up
The tide has turned, but the water remains

The bells ring out their peal, joyously so
The barriers gleam white
Blocking river from the sea, deprived of its spoils
Peace for our time
Can we withstand?

The emigrant ship

Wide open ocean, headed southwest
Morning is breaking, all is set fair
Compass is pointing, but not the right way
From points in the east they have all come

Breakfast time comes, but the water is salt
A rock in the bottom, now a bottomless ship
Going back makes a right-angled turn
From east - now down

A new beginning from a stifling stranglehold
Young, old, and all, for reasons too old
A man and a cross, an onion-domed palace
Flocked to the northland, to now make the west

What's left is in boats, drifting northeast
Away from the new life, but for now still in life
Not all will reach salvation
As their coracles drift on the currents

A fishing boat here, another one there
Help is at hand, and terra firma beckons
An island and town, and a gravestone by a wall
All went for the new life, some do yet gain it

One boats drifts northeast, past the isle of the sheep
past the line of long sun, into the great cold
Never seen again in this life
Lessons were taught, but were they learned?

TITANIC

Iolaire

Frantic beat the hooves down the road to the coast
Low sweeps the beam of the lighthouse over the waves
High rises the swell to crash on the beasts
Not lit, not shown up, lurking under sea

High fly the rockets but two hours past midnight
Hidden from view, beyond the glance of the prism
Mistaken for feasting, but no less the opposite
There's only one rope and too many waves

Boyling on the rocks, beyond the reach of succour
Carried ashore, but bereft of all life
Spared years of carnage, taken at the step of the year
Dawn breaks cold and cruel, one up the mast

Lived at the shore, returned on the strand
Returned in death to the isle of their birth
The teapot stands cold, the bed unslept in
Two hundred and five, sixty not found.