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

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