Remembering

When the men in black leave
when the traffic queues resolve
when the bus goes back to base
and the church is locked up

When they return home
to an empty chair
and a silence
never to be filled

When the sun finally sets
over distant hills
darkness looms large
as the sea ceaselessly moves

All that remains
will be a tall standing stone
inscription it'll bear
slowly to fade

You are not gone
you live on in us
as long as we remember
you live on in us

The sea will recall
and the wind will whisper
the wild birds cry out
as the seasons revolve

Your name on a stone
Your name in our minds
Your face in our minds
Your soul lives on in ours

Autumn

As the wind blows east
from distant climes
a hint of warmth
brings summer's end

The clouds now build
for the autumn's strife
between cold and warm
as the sun sinks south

With the equinox gone
leaves are turning
berries throng the trees
and birds heading south

Colour will soon fade
leaving just brown
yellow and black
as winter looms

National Poetry Day 2017

Dalmore



From the endless sea
a wave rolls in
like a drawn-out sigh
runs out onto the beach

The endless sky
of northern blue
with tufts of white
marches overhead

The sun yet low
over the darkened hill
brown green
yellow winter hue

Beyond the sea
in distant lands
beyond our knowledge
we may not venture

Its markers loom
in the sandy soil
where the memories fade
in illegible lines

We remember you
even if we never knew
so you'll forever live
on Dalmore beach

Langadale

Where eagles fly
and white hares run
the mice quiver
under fleeting winds

Rapaire juts out
under Stulabhal's bluff
where the path threads
up the mountain slope

Oft my feet
have waded the river
where it meanders
under Mullach's slopes

Crowned in cloud
the mountains rear
under northern sun
in Langadale



Mealista

Nearing the end of the road
when the tarmac has ceased
the going gets tough
the ground only more rough
 
We think of you now
as sleep overtakes wakening
to not feel the pain
to not have to think
 
The road nears its end
but the light beyond it
grows brighter
in distant Tir nan Og
 
Where the nunnery stood
looking south down the narrows
past the abandoned isle
to the hamlet
 
At the end of another road
or maybe a new beginning
past the point of
our cognisance
 
Where the slipway lies
is the end of the road
into the sea
to Tir nan Og

 

From cliff to Cliff Beach

The road goes ever on and on
with only the sky up above
darkness is falling
obscuring the other ways ahead

Although beauty was the day's work
Life's beauty was lost from sight
For what reasons
We may never know

Memories throng the mind
appearing to offer
a way to the light
the gate is yet closed

The last words were spoken
The beach smiles from afar
It beckons towards life
but darkness prevails

The gate is now open
The rocks come to an end
No other road now offers itself
One step

Torsten Kulke, aged 48, went missing near Aird Uig, Isle of Lewis, on July 28th. A body, thought to be his, was found washed up on nearby Cliff Beach on August 12th. May he rest in peace.

A name on a stone

A name on a stone
Forever staring east
until the breaking of the Day
when the shadows flee away

A name on her lips
another one of many
in the village looking west
she had given birth once more

A name on his lips
before the darkness fell
from the ceiling beam
from unsustainable life

A name on a form
all of them headed west
later to return
to fight for God knows what

A name on a berth
amended on the sheet
recording his journey into death
from gunshot wounds

A name on a box
headed for the wrong isle
no, he's not ours
but he'll be our hero for good

A name on a stone
a final resting place
not far from the eternal sea
RIP Donald Macleod 79110

Short story XXV

Mol. Not an English word. It's Gaelic. You won't get much more of that language in this story, this writer is unfamiliar with it. But Mol means a shingly beach, something that's quite common in these parts. The one that this story is going to be about is not easily found, if you don't know about it. It's off the beaten track, and even the beaten track is a difficult proposition in inclement weather. But it's not about the track, or how to get to the beach overland. Because, it's about the headland as well. The heathery headland. The shingly beach of the heathery headland. Mol Linginis.

Mol Linginis is now quiet. One of those corners of the islands where nothing ever moves. Oh, the odd sheep may amble through, nibbling the grass. The surf sloshes ashore at regular intervals, a bit more fierce when the wind is up. Quite a sheltered little place, really. Above the shingle is a small valley, and in its heart sit the remains of a few homesteads. It's half a century now, a little more, since Mol Linginis was left behind, and the last of its people went to their final resting place. The rowans remain beside the walls, and remember them. The south wind rustles their leaves.

Can't you remember, the south wind whispered. The rowan leaves rustled, turning fitfully in the wind. They remembered alright, the houses intact, the people quietly going about their daily lives. Lives being born, lives lived, lives that ended. Their sorrows, their joys. Their dreams, their despairs. The ones that left, never to return. The ones who left, through compulsion, for other pastures. The rowan sighed in the wind. The little stream trickled down the valley floor, to disappear into the shingle below the heathery headland.

Murmuring in its overgrown channel, the little stream made its way through Mol Linginis. It did not need reminding of what was once there. It remembered the day the last ones left, and the empitness left behind. The times a roof fell in, leaving the wild winds a free reign all around. Quietly, the stream disappeared into the shingle, into the Mol. The waves lapped ashore from Loch Trollamaraig beyond. Evening fell.

The dark sea heaved in long swells. On one corner of land, a lighthouse blinked its unseeing warning. A few miles north, the waves petered out on an unlit shingley strand. Round the corner, pinpricks of light could be made out across the water. But there was no occupied habitation at Mol Linginis to emit light. Loch Trollamaraig lay in darkness at its feet, its waves crashing ashore unheard. What they carried ashore remained hidden as yet.

Impenetrable darkness blanketed Mol Linginis. Not a single pinprick of light was visible from the Mol. None of the habitable houses left in the township was occupied. The slow pulse of the throbbing swell washing ashore continued unabated. The song of the stream, trickling in its overgrown bed, never stopped. Inexorably, the eastern horizon turned from black to deepest red. The rough outlines of islands became visible against the light of the new day.

Jagged teeth emerged into the red dawn, which also painted Mol Linginis a blazing colour. The Rough and House Island stood out in the distance, where they previously had lain hidden in the darkness. The swell imperceptibly rose, until it was thundering on the Mol. What it carried ashore was seen by nobody. The insouciant sheep were not interested. The homesteads overlooked the shingle, but did not see. The path into the little valley lay untrodden. For now.

The sun painted the surface of the sea a cardinal red as it rose above the mainland mountains. Like a path stretching east to west, touching Mol Linginis. Only the birds on the Rough and House Islands had watched the boat drifting past on the current, in the dawning light of day. Slung low in the water, partly filled with water. Nobody could see what was in the boat. There was nobody on the Galtanach that could.

The lighthouse winked its final flash of light, from above the white and red bands on its tower. Grey Island light is just round the corner from Mol Linginis, and looks out towards the Rough and House Islands. The sun took over the lighting of the paths of mariners across the Minch. One craft drifted slowly westwards, away from the jagged teeth of the Galtanach. None were watching from the shores of the Empty Quarter.

Not all made it home, that night. Only a quarter of them did. Not all were found, that day. A third of them were not. At least those that were found did not have far to go. Perhaps fifty yards to come ashore. Fifty yards too far, in that dreadful night. Some swam ashore, or tried to. Some took to the boats, or tried to. One boat drifted away, on the turning tide. It was not spotted from the nearby shores, or by passing mariners. The Blue Men of the Minch carried it round Kebock, past Milead, and through the Sound of Shiant, at the breaking of the day. Mol Linginis waited, still, quiet, breathless. Smoke swirled from the demure thatched houses, from where none stirred. At the noon hour, the boat ground ashore on the Mol. When the villagers made their discovery, the sun’s light was fading on that winter’s day. News had reached from the north, of one of their number not coming back from the war. The sea had taken – but on this occasion gave back. History does not record where his final resting place was. The shadow of an eagle passed high overhead. They nest in those abandoned hills, just across the water from Mol Linginis. Eagle is the English word for that magnificent bird of prey. I said before that my knowledge of Gaelic was very limited. But I do know the Gaelic for eagle. Iolaire.

Lengthening days

The day widens
in the land of trees
the bare branches smile
in the lengthening rays

The days broadens
in the far northwest
the lighthouse beckons
from the ancient rocks

Snow blankets still
the land of trees
frost paints
the expectant branches

Wind sweeps
in the ancient isles
clouds past the
ascending sun

Winter still holds
its firmest grip
yet the promise is there
for the coming spring

Melting snow

As the snow melts
from the land of trees
the Atlantic reaches
from beyond the shores

A reminder from far away
where winter
holds little
if any sway

Where the wind will blow
and the rain fall
where the low sun shines
for but few hours each day

The lighthouse winks
at those returning
and those departing
from near and far

The land of trees
holds memories
and I shall bide
a little while longer

Iolaire 1919-2016

Another day dawns
into another year
Glancing up northwest
where the memories abide

Headed home
that fateful morn
hopes dashed
on the Beasts at Holm

Nigh on a century gone
The memories raw
The teapot stands
where it stood in '19

Awaiting those
who would never return
from the depths
out at sea

From far away
my mind's eye beholds
the tower on the hill
overlooking the old town

We remember forever
those gone on ahead
in the service of their country
they gave up their all