Tuesday, 28 June 2011

(9) Monreith


‘hide a stone among stones

a man among men’

- Akira Kurowsawa, Hidden Fortress

Our Joboji would have been Tom Pow, but he’s away in Lebanon

Our shrines to inspect are Celtic Christian and Neolithic: chapels of Ninian and Medan, The Wren’s Egg and Nest; our temple there called Shugen-komyoj is St Medana’s Chapel down among the rocks


Our Inuoumono, the dog-shooting field, is Gavin Maxwell’s basking shark fishery, Soay, and the memorial to him here at Elrig

Our Nasu reed-brakes are ‘medan’, the cliff-top meadows of the Rhinns of Galloway

Our Tamamo-no-mae's tomb is St Medan’s stone-boat by the chapel, the hawthorn and well, found and not.

Our native land has turned gorse-yellow, Salmond-yellow

Our prayer is to our boots, that they be waterproof without waterproofing for one last trip



9 ‘Last few days’

Alec Finlay, 2011

‘Last few days’: the road south-west


Ken starts his civic day voting at the Ebeneezer Chapel in Bangor Road – then drops off a bag of books at at St Andrew’s & St George’s on George St, for the annual Christian Aid book fair. Books bought there in the past are still unread, so now he’s happier to give than to receive.

He drives slowly through morning traffic as Eck’s train pulls out slowly from Newcastle Central. Past Tollcross it’s quiet and soon the car skirts the Pentlands on the A702, as the train shuffles along The Wall towards Carlisle. Rain’s forecast later but for now the weather’s fine. Ken stops for tea and wifi at Annandale Water, scenic services remembered from long-past family and SPL van trips; Eck empties his flask of dark puerh cup by cup.

Our ways intersect at Dumfries without mishap. We head west beneath still fair skies, though by the time we stop at Bladnoch the rain’s on. At the distillery we forgo the tour and the venerable bottles for a 46% miniature – from a choice of labels we opt for a Wigtown-Scotland’s-Book-Town stack of books rather than Burns and scenery

(KC, AF)


Isle of Whithorn


9 hokku-label
(the flag of the Fifth kingdom, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2011

Our first stop proper is at Isle of Whithorn. Bladnoch’s as far as Ken’s been before, so the Machars is new territory for him. The land is fairly flat and, despite proximity to the sea, with rain reducing visibility we feel landlocked – views defined by gorse and cattle. We follow the blue P round past the harbour, and an optimistic berth.

angled rain
waterproofs

safe & dry
in the car

an ironical boat
in the harbour

BRIGHT HORIZON

The locals say
on a clear day
you may see
four Kingdoms from here

Scotland
Ireland
England
Man
& the fifth Kingdom
Heaven

whose flag is
sometimes grey
sometimes blue

and which
translate into
Radio Scotland on-FM-and-Medium-wave
BBC Ulster
Radio Cumbria
Man FM
Celestial Radio


9 The Chapel

Ken Cockburn, 2011


St Ninian’s Chapel is a short walk away. By the time Ken’s gathered thoughts and necessities from the car Eck’s poemed, and drunk a cup of lukewarm Jasmine tea – that thermos from Lewis is on the wane, new-filled it’s hot near the neck.


The first wee beach is mirrored by another, 30 yards away, like Eilean nan Gobhar. The drystane walls on the approach are thick with lichen, but the ruined chapel itself is well-maintained, tidy stone and shorn grass, sans wildflowers of say Sand or Kilmarie.


9 Sora’s cloistered window

Ken Cockburn, 2011


Although haphazard, the Witness Cairn’s permanent-markered stones are fastidious compared to our transient labeling.



9 The Witness Cairn

Ken Cockburn, 2011



9 i.m. Kenneth Kay

Alec Finlay, 2011


It’s cold and windy. May, and we agree not bringing gloves was a mistake. Eck returns to the car for shelter while Ken investigates an odd square white structure at the headland – no idea what it is.


Nearby’s a second Solway Harvester memorial – the first one, ‘Erected by the Freemasons’, sits outwith the Witness Cairn wall. A scallop dredger, Solway Harvester sank off Man in January 2000 with the loss of seven crew. One suspicion was nets became entangled with a submarine which dived, dragging the boat under, but the final report raised concerns over maintenance.


(AF, KC)


Tale of the stone woman


St Medan's 'boat'

9 'St Medan's boat'

Courtesy Les Dunford, 2011


At Dunadd we saw the footfall of King or Queen or Witch imprinted in rock, here there’s a whole woman, man or boat, Medan, depending how you open the name:


Nadokoro Medan

for Medan

read maiden

for Medan

read Edan, Etain

for Medan

read Medoin

for Medan

read Moninne

Modwena

for Medan

read Muadan

my Aedan

for Medan

read Modan

friend of St Drostan

(our translation)

for Medan

read cliff-top meadow

Rhinns of Galloway


There being no consensus. let’s agree: Saintly man or Saintly woman, probably from Ireland, in the era of tidal influx associated with Ninian, whose cave is nearby.

The shape-shifting of myths and beliefs gives us Medan as our pairing with Lady Tamamo, the fox spirit who assumes the guise of a seductive woman. That story originally Indian: Kalmasapada, a king, was born of a union between his father and a female tiger. Fierce he was, and with stripy legs.


ANGRY KING CLAIMS

LAWS HAVE “NO CLAWS”


In the Japanese tale Yasube no Yasunari exorcised Lady Tamamo’s fox spirit, revealing its true form.


YASUNARI PUTS HEX

ON “FOXY” LADY TAMAMO


She was then hunted over the reedy plains of Nasu where Miura no Suke Akira shot her through with an arrow.


LADY TAMAMO

KILLED BY ARROW

AT NASU


This gave Basho reason to mention the dog-shooting competition. Lady Tamamo’s ghost was transformed into the Sesshoseki rock.


LADY TAMAMO

TURNED TO STONE –

EXPERTS SUSPECT GAS


This noxious moth-killing stone we paired with the Murder Stone by Tingwall, which Jen visited last summer.

KAZUNAO ”TURNED ME ON

TUNED ME IN”

CLAIMS LADY TAMAMO


Eventually, through the guidance of Minamoto Kazunao, Tamamo was enlightened. For more details see the Noh play Sesshoseki.


9 The Murder Stone, Tingwall

Jen Hadfield, 2010


Tamamo-no-mae’s tomb


Nasu Kogen 那須高原 - Sesshou seki 殺生石

9 Nasu Kogen, Sesshou seki
courtesy Nekoguchi, 2011


9 the stones of Kirkmaiden

Ken Cockburn, 2011


Haec Loca


9 Maxwell Memorial

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Heading down toward the bay we come across the memorial to Gavin Maxwell out on the cliff-top. This was his childhood home, on the family estate – Maxwell was a Percy of Northumberland, but they’d family lands at Monreith.


9 otter & Sora

Ken Cockburn, 2011



9 Kirkmaiden may

Ken Cockburn, 2011

There’s white may, though the hawthorn, mindful of the searing wind, is cooried down in the scrub. There’s a signpost pointing the way we’re not going.



9 Clarksburn

Ken Cockburn, 2011

'Take the last path to Clarksburn, and I’ll meet you at the seaside’, as the Monkees might have sung.


9 Mounted Archery Chasing Dogs circa 1896, Japan.

Maxwell is our pair for the Inuoumono Basho records: the ancient dog-shooting field, where skilled warriors practiced for the hunt. The author of Ring of Bright Water, one of the classic idylls of wild nature written in the last century, killed over 1000 basking sharks during his ill-fated fishery on Soay (1945-48). Kathleen Jamie records how


Rifles and ammunition were never far from hand. ‘We were raised to hunt’. he says. Indeed, before Camusfearna, Maxwell had already had a short-lived and ruinous career as a basking-shark fisherman, laying waste to those huge creatures. Raised to hunt, indeed, but observant enough to notice that the fox had undigested sand-hoppers in its droppings. Two pages after the fox-slaughter, Maxwell professes ‘a love of living creatures’. He has, he says the ability to ‘make a conscious effort to put myself in the animal’s position.’

(Kathleen Jamie, ‘Ring of Bright Water’, London Review of Books)


9 Kirkmaiden otter

Ken Cockburn, 2011

When Kathleen visited Sandaig she found piles of frogs’ legs at the mouth of the burn; not the aftermath of some teenagers’ massacre but the work of otters, a natural killing field.



9 hokku-label

(‘flame will / claim you’, AF)

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Camusfearna / Sandaig’s also where Ken left a verse of Valerie Gilles' last August.
'The lost cascade’ is a translation of the name of the Allt Caillte waterfall on Sleat.


the sound of the lost cascade
reaches out
beyond the sea

(
Valerie Gillies)

9 audio: Valerie Gillies,
'St Medan'
Alec Finlay, 2011


Eck tags the otter’s paw. The same flames that cast this memorial would destroy Camusfearna, killing Edal, enacting the curse that ended Maxwell’s idyll.


Medan (East Coast)


9 Kirkmaiden Chapel

Ken Cockburn, 2011


..**S

..*faiTh


*...*M

..floatEd

**...D

.......A

...stoNe


We’re seeking our stone-boat man-woman, Medan. Eck used to holiday down here, at Port William, and has dredged up a cinematic memory of visiting the stone-boat, which carried a beautiful young woman away over the bay, safe from a lightbob soldier who was bewitched by her eyes. A retelling of the Medan myth set in the Napoleonic era. His gran read the story from a big red book of folk-tales as they sat on the boat-rock, which really did seem as if it could have floated off on a tidal flood, if the need came.

The tale had sunk back into deep memory for years, and then at one of Norman MacCaig’s birthday bashes Eck heard Tom Pow – who Sheena McDonald rudely introduced on stage as the ‘tall, strange-looking one’ – read his retelling of Medan, ‘The Gift of Sight’, it all came flooding back. It was Tom’s poem that suggested to us we should find our way back to Kirkmaiden, the site of the blinding, and of the healing. We’d hoped to meet him here, but today he’s heading for Beirut, as part of Reel Festivals.



9 hokku-label

(‘seen thorn / Medan / seeing spring’, AF, for Valerie Gilles)

Ken Cockburn, 2011



9 Medan’s blinded eyes AF, after Valerie Gillies

Ken Cockburn, 2011


Now the map’s Gothic letters promise us Kirkmaiden and St Medana’s Well, which we know from Valerie Gillies’ poem in her survey of holy wells The Spring Teller.


St Medana’s Well, Wigtownshire

Medana left Ireland and the man

who stalked her. Stepping onto a rock,

she floated here across the bay.

He followed, tried again to praise her.

She plucked her own eyes out.

You want these? He left unseen.

A disc of blue, the spring is flowing

from the boat-shaped rock

and its strand enters the salt sea.

This is where she washed her face

and somehow she could see again:

the painful stabs of sea holly,

a rock pipit on the cliff,

its streaked breast.

A tight cluster of sea aster

and a great mass of thrift.

Two perfect quartz pebbles

white and smooth as eyeballs.


9 Medan’s blinded eyes

AF, after Valerie Gillies

Ken Cockburn, 2011


9 hokku-label

(‘are the ash & the ivy / the only one’s left / to celebrate the arch’, KC)

Ken Cockburn, 2011


We find Kirkmaiden easily, following the path bending below the golf course – old gravestones, an open enclosure, and a padlocked chapel, the carved arch in good nick, but otherwise cracks and missing slates say disrepair.




9 Kirkmaiden Chapel

Ken Cockburn, 2011

But down the steps to the beach, we don’t find the well or the boat-shaped rock which crossed Luce Bay.



9 hokku-label

(‘myth’s semblance / of shadow / sinks into / cold stone’, AF, for Tom Pow)

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Eck’s mythic childhood movie is dissolving in the rain. He walks forlornly up and down the length of the beach looking for the spring of his imagining. There’s nothing harder than being a failed finder.


9 hokku-label

(‘LITTORAL / as far as the sprays / cast / as deep as the sea / reaches’, AF)

Ken Cockburn, 2011

The skies lower than low, greyer than grey, so we can’t see over the water to Medan’s twinned chapel on the Mull, to the west of the west. That’s the mist we’ll disappear into tomorrow.

Ken has a theory based on observation: the tide isn’t far enough out – below the cliff the big boulders are still sea-buffeted – and he suspects the floaty-stone is one the tide’s still holding onto. We take it in turns to point at the tops of rocks farther and farther out, that one, perhaps, this one, maybe. All the while our boat-stone feels more sunken.

Still, we’ve the poems to imagine. We read Valerie’s poem by the cliff, with the rain soaking the sheets and our fingers freezing. Imaginations consoled, Ken projects a miracle onto the isolated rock safe on the sand. Maybe?


9 hokku-label

(‘you may know the story / you may know the place, / still it’s the poem / that bears the trace’, AF)

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Eck finds his own miracle of the fishes.


9 flying fish, Medan’s angel

Alec Finlay, 2011

On the path back we read Tom’s poem by the brightest hawthorn, and stop for a quick libation of Booktown Bladnoch overlooking the shore, our backs to the putting green. It has to be said, dram 52 isn’t the finest we’ve tasted.


9 audio: Tom Pow, 'St Medan'

Alec Finlay, 2011


9 rock & whisky

Ken Cockburn, 2011



9 Sora’s libation: wet meets wetter

Ken Cockburn, 2011

The Wren’s Egg & Nest, Monreith



9 Wrens Egg

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Damp as we are there’s more to do, balancing Christian and pre-Christian. The area between the coast and the Fell of Barhullion, with its fort, is scattered with a rich arc of Neolithic culture: circles, rings, pockled rocks and homesteads, cupped toward the sea highway, as at Dunadd.


Stellock

Myrton

Craignour

Blairbuie

Dumtroddan


Reminders of other places. Benbuie Burn up the glen at Moniave; Dun Troddan Broch in Glenelg; and Craigenvenie at Rannoch.

Is a Stellock a Fankock on a hillock for the sheltering of sheep?

Farther east on the map we enjoy the name Barmeal, and wonder, if we drive through there and go far enough, do we reach the wee hamlet of our dreams, Alldaybreakfast?



9 Wrens Egg

Ken Cockburn, 2011

The monument we pick out is the the Wren’s Egg, still near Monreith; curiously, it’s the single feature that finds its way onto the AA road map, though unnamed on the orange Pathfinder. We follow a single-track road and turn down a farm-track before skirting a just-sprouting crop-field. There’s a mound topped with beech, like Paul Nash’s Whiittingham Clumps, and alongside them nestles the Wren’s Egg.



9 Wrens Egg

Ken Cockburn, 2011

An erratic boulder, a ‘natural’ stone, set down here gently by the cradling of a glacier, like Clach Ossian.



9 Clach Ossian

Ken Cockburn, 2010

The egg stone looks like it’s just been placed – nested – on a bed of fresh compost, with two smaller stones just below it. Eck says, “I wouldn’t like to meet the wren that laid this”; and we share a joke about its alignment with the nearby farms of Low Clone and High Clone. At the fringe of the wood we find Spring’s blue broken egg-shells to place on the mother-stone.



9 Wrens Egg & ‘wren's’ egg

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Back in the car we decide that was the final drenching off the day. At Glen Luce, a wee place the road forgot, the hotel rooms have big warm radiators like in an old school, which become driers for boots, coats, waterproofs, socks, trousers. Now we’re inside the rain has eased. Ken asks what kinds of tea they have. “Just tea, son, just tea”.


9 St Luce Hair cult

Alec Finlay, 2011

St Medan (2): west

Most of what we went to look for we never found – but still it was all grand. Breakfast tv has the SNP on 46 seats, Labour 20, Tories 4, LibDems 2 and Greens 1.



9 West Freugh Wren’s Egg

Ken Cockburn, 2011


We head down to the Rhinns past another, even bigger, Wren’s Egg – there really is something in this cloning lark – towards the westerly Kirkmaiden, St Medan’s Chapel and Cave, down at the very foot of the Mull of Galloway. It’s fairer today but the far shore of Glenluce Bay, where we were yesterday, is still fog-shrouded, extending the voyage of the stone into another dimension of time and space.

When we park we’re welcomed by swifts, on the fence, circling and dipping, accompanying us along the cliff edge, close-calling the thrift, joying in their safe arrival.


East Tarbet and West Tarbet, another narrow neck of land with a beach either side, wider than at Isle of Whithorn.



9 wish, gorse (Rhins of Galloway)

Ken Cockburn, 2011


Medan’s meadows


9 Medan’s meadows

Ken Cockburn, 2011


9 Meadan's meadows

Ken Cockburn, 2011


***medan

***alternate translation:

**a clifftop meadow

**..**priMrose

gorsE

orchiDs

*..*****seA-pink

.*ferN

**..*.*raMsons

*..*.bluEbell

*****....meaDowsweet

..****And

**greeN ivy



9 circle poem (‘bobs of drifting thrift nod on the cliff’, AF)

Alec Finlay, 2011


A journey of faith


The big brown bull the other side of the drystone wall we wouldn’t like to be in the same field as backs off when Eck approaches. We’ll call him Tomintoul. The book says the chapel isn’t visible from the clifftop path, and the map’s vague as to its exact location. It’s a journey of faith.


9 Sora's Path of Faith

Ken Cockburn, 2011


Eck chooses the path of ecstasy and risk, heading his boots down a precarious-looking ridge too beautiful with flowers not to brush against death for. Thankful for the little knoll at the end of the dragon’s back. It was one of the loveliest moments of the whole year’s journey, so perfect in its meeting of geology, ecology and poetry.


The plunge was a short-cut to the chapel - not - and he ends up clambering over cliffs, round a point and then back up through a chimney of rock, forsaking the chapel to loll in the meadow, suited to his creed.


9 hokku-label

Ken Cockburn, 2011


sea-meadow hokku

(I)

taking the wrong cliff path
trapped among Medan’s

tormentil, primroses, meadow-
sweet and nodding thrift

(II)

my path
leads down

marked by flowers
and birdsong

(III)

if I’d come looking
for bright flowers

would I have found
the dark chapel?

(IV)

trending spring
may, primroses

ramsons and every-
thing

9 Sora's Path of Faith

Ken Cockburn, 2011


Ken sticks to the high road of quietude and certainty along the gorse path of life, descending further along. Down on the beach there’s no sign of any chapel – looking back at Eck, shouting to ask if he’s found it gets a thumbs down.



9 Medan's schooner

Alec Finlay, 2011

Clambering between huge rocks to the next bay, and then up to the grassy slope, and still nothing.



9 hokku-label

(for 'cassock' read ‘tussock’ / for ‘saint’ read ‘snail’, KC)

Ken Cockburn, 2011

Another mystery withheld, contenting himself with wildflowers and the ubiquitous snails, Ken thinks it can’t be any further on so give up and head back, and of course it reveals itself, the remains of a drystone wall against a natural cliff.


9 St Medan’s Chapel

Ken Cockburn, 2011

The cave is at the back where a wall has been built up, holding a low iron rectangle a spiderweb’s spun on which marks the entrance to Medan’s original hermitage the chapel was a later extension to.


9 St Medan’s Chapel

Ken Cockburn, 2011

The way the site’s been used is impressive, the two side walls formed by slabs of rock. Ivy grows down from the cliff above, as ivy half-covers the Machars’ Kirkmaiden.

And here’s Sora, back where he started – at the top of Eck’s ridge, looking down to Finlay’s Point. A swift flies low between us. We walk back in a dry fog. The bull’s mingling with the crowds. Three lambs we pass weigh up anxiety against indolence, and shift a bit, but don’t exactly scarper. The swifts are still pegged to the fence.


Come evening, searching for a place to eat, we're enjoying the radio again, tuned to Scotland 'Getting it on' the FM band.


GET IT ON


right this is Senga

on the blog

wanting to hear


the whole meat loaf

cause it’s good

right the way through


from The Rhinns to Killin


this is the day

Scotland turned yellow


balancing the best

of her scorn


with her desire

for the ideal


summed up in

Wee Eck’s cheeky grin

As we leave the Rhinns and the count is continuing we take a quick stop to photo the windmills at Ardgour.


9 hokku-label

Ken Cockburn, 2011


9 hokku-label

Ken Cockburn, 2011


WM


the black-headed turbines

prefer to take their turn


on the lower hills

close to the farm


Ailsa Craig: for sale


9 hokku-label

('For Sale, beautiful beaches, bijou beaches; own supply of curling stones. Plentiful bathing. For details apply A. Craig', AF)
Alec Finlay, 2011



9 yellow, from Kelty to Skye
Ken Cockburn, 2011


By Stranraer the SNP are up into the 50s, Libdems stuck in low single figures. North through Ayrshire, between the news we listen again to old favourites: Neil Young’s Jukebox, classics all; Van Morrison’s St Dominic’s Preview; Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark, which Ken knows vaguely except ‘Raised on Robbery’ which he knows perfectly – probably taped off the radio onto a C120 and played and replayed then taped over and long since discarded. Van Morrison’s ‘Jackie Wilson says’ is great, a tight song, but whatever comes next has him improvising grunts Ken’s less time for (seeing The Last Waltz back in those C120 days, Van didn’t do it for him.)


VARYAG



9 VARYAG memorial, Lendalfoot
Ken Cockburn, 2011

We’re intrigued by a War Memorial sign that has a Russian translation. Pulling in we read a story of loss and failure – a Czarist ship defeated in battle, scuttled, raised and reused by the (Japanese) enemy, sold back to the Russians, sent abroad for renovation, ‘set adrift’ by the Revolution, sold for scrap and finally sinking here off the coast. It’s a big, traditional, heavy, recent, bilingual monument, and we wonder why. An unlikely source of pride for contemporary Russian patriotism. Perhaps it’s a new narrative to counter the old one Ayrshire’s Moscow tells. But it reads too much like a government-approved textbook version of history to be convincing.


the road north

The road north runs through Paisley, specifically Nitshill, once home to the legendary Frances Seneca McDade. Sadly a visit to the crucible of this remarkable mind will have to wait for another occasion, as the Erskine Bridge beckons. We cross the Clyde beneath grey-black clouds, but by the time we reach Loch Lomond (our Matsushima parva, as McDade macaronically might have put it), the sun is more or less out again.



9 MNTN, BEN LOMOND
Ken Cockburn, 2011

Eck labels Ben Lomond. The kids in the extended layby step back sensibly from the road as we drive slowly past, but it doesn’t stop them aiming their toy guns at us.

On the radio Ken's eastcoasthometown Kirkcaldy’s the star; David Torrance brings the SNP to 65, and an absolute majority in the new parliament. Eck imagines the measures his namesake will have to take to tone down his smug smirk at victory as he descends to Prestonfield House in a helicopter. The radio presenter suggests it’s been circling, waiting for the magic number. What is it about political leaders ascending from the skies? He involuntarily thinks of Triumph of the Will, and Hitler descending from the skies at Nuremberg; but we democrats respond to theatre too.

At Crianlarich, where we meet the Oban road, Eck says he finds this an incongruous junction, a meeting of two different holidays, Kyle and Argyll.

At Killin we eat with Ken's sister Judith.

coda (I): Jim’s hokku

Although our journey is nearing it's end there are still new poems arriving


Full moon on the loch,
****are you also composing
a fine letter home?

Loch Ken

Rhythm of footsteps,
****the weight in your heart, sighting
the evening star.

Whithorn

Boughs bent with berries
****above waterfall bubbles.
My old eyes lost count.

Moniaive

White breath of cattle
****and hay strands frozen today
in muck round the heck.

Hightae

Trout underwater
****watch us passing like shadows
of the old gods. Gone.

Whithorn

My ancestor shot
****yours hereabouts. Now speugies
peck at roadside grit.

Newton Stewart

(James McGonigall)


coda (II): Jen’s poem

And this is from Jen on Shetland, after her mulling over Tingwall.


coda (III): Ken’s Triduana

“Medan – whether she was a she or a he – the story about her blinding herself (as in Tom's poem) has to be the story of a woman – it is basically the same story of that St Triduana, who has a chapel here in Edinburgh and one on Papa Westray too. 'Intercession', the first poem in On the flyleaf is about her. But she is a very different character from the fox lady – renouncing rather than seeking power. Perhaps a closer parallel is a selkie? Not that we will find a grave.”

Intercession


St Triduana’s Well and Chapel, Restalrig:
among the graveyard’s still apparent skull-and-crossbones
there’s a sign, that the chapel keys can be collected
at DECORUM, Painting and Decorating Contractors,
9-5 Weekdays. Somebody’s taken the trouble to mark nearby: PINK FLOYD, NIRVANA, BEAST McPHILLIPS.


The unusual hexagonal chapel was built for James III
above a spring, and the floor-slabs, laid below ground level,
would have been underwater: became, much later, linked
with Triduana, an “obscure Pictish saint”,
who gifted a princely suitor enamoured of her eyes
those eyes on thorns; was granted her desired seclusion.

The waters, like her intercession, the blind’s remeid;
all mere idolatrie, in the Reformers’ eyes,
who tumbled down the upper part: the lower, since
restored, re-roofed, kept dry with pumps, is bare except for
a wooden figure rising above the streams of sunlight,
plotting a king’s descent into humility.

High up on the outside wall, somebody’s taken the trouble to record, twice, with a permanent marker, the name: SHEREE.
The enormous trees are beginning their meditations on autumn,
and beyond the ordered, secular windows of
the Pensions Department, in which so much has been invested,
the golden-antlered flanks of Holyrood unfold.

Where a well-house stands, the chapel’s
miniature double, exact
down to the floral bosses,
but pumpless: mosses thrive,
and a pipe dribbles water into a pool of water.

A small-mesh grill bars
the aperture, bars touch,
taste, the chance to test it,
but wishes are still admitted;
coins, their remnants, dot the flooded chamber’s floor.

intimations

St Medan’s Chapel: grid square reference and summary at Geograph

Tom Pow is a poet as well as writer of young adult novels, picture books, radio plays and travel literature. In The Becoming, Selected and New Poems was published by Polygon in June 2009.

Valerie Gillies' collections of poetry include Each Bright Eye (1977), Tweed Journey (1989), The Lightning Tree (2002) and The Spring Teller (2008).

Jen Hadfield wrote Almanacs (Bloodaxe) in Shetland and the Western Isles in 2002, winning an Eric Gregory Award for the work in 2003. Nigh-No-Place, written in Canada and Shetland, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2007 and won the T.S.Eliot Prize for poetry in 2008.




1 comment:

  1. hi guys,

    i just wanted to let you know that i found one of your labels at auchindoun castle, moray, on 21/07; the thistles are now in their purple blooms.

    best wishes, gordon

    ReplyDelete