The first snow was sleet. It swirled heavily
Out of a cloud black enough to hold snow.
It was fine in the wind, but couldn't bear to touch
Anything solid. It died a pauper's death.

Now snow - it grins like a maniac in the moon.
It puts a glove on your face. It stops gaps.
It catches your eye and your breath. It settles down
Ponderously crushing trees with its airy ounces.

But today it was sleet, dissolving spiders on cheekbones,
Being melting spit on the glass, smudging the mind
Then humped itself by the fire, turning away
From the ill wind, the sky filthily weeping.

Norman MacCaig


He went directly and unhurried and scanned the smattering.

Wingbit snagskin throatlap furthew clawlid eyespit oarfire.
Oarfire? No, that’s just dreams talking. Pure dreamtalk.
But sinew and pinion, yes.
Scale and ferrule, yes.
Printflake. printflake. printflake.

And he simply upped them one by one
and cradled them eachwise in his hand,
and stroked them whole and hale.

And every single sundered heartbeat struck.

Jim Mainland, from The League of Notions

Latha Foghair

’S mi air an t-slios ud
latha foghair,
na sligean a’ sianail mum chluasan
agus sianar marbh ri mo ghualainn,
rag-mharbh – is reòthta mur b’ e ’n teas –
mar gum b’ ann a’ fuireach ri fios.

Nuair thàinig an sgriach
a-mach às a’ ghrèin,
à buille ’s bualadh do-fhaicsinn,
leum an lasair agus streap an ceathach
agus bhàrc e gacha rathad:
dalladh nan sùl, sgoltadh claistinn.

’S ’na dhèidh, an sianar marbh,
fad an latha;
am measg nan sligean san t-srannraich
anns a’ mhadainn,
agus a-rithist aig meadhan-latha
agus san fheasgar.

Ris a’ ghrèin ’s i cho coma,
cho geal cràiteach;
air a’ ghainmhich ’s i cho tìorail
socair bàidheil;
agus fo reultan Afraga,
’s iad leugach àlainn.

Ghabh aon Taghadh iadsan
’s cha d’ ghabh e mise,
gun fhaighneachd dhinn
cò b’ fheàrr no bu mhiosa:
ar leam, cho diabhlaidh coma
ris na sligean.

Sianar marbh rim o ghualainn
latha foghair.

Somhairle MacGill-Eain, from Caoir Gheal Leumraich / White Leaping Flame: Collected Poems (ed. by Christopher Whyte and Emma Dymock)

An Autumn Day

On that slope
on an autumn day,
the shells soughing about my ears
and six dead men at my shoulder,
dead and stiff – and frozen were it not for the heat –
as if they were waiting for a message.

When the screech came
out of the sun,
out of an invisible throbbing,
the flame leaped and the smoke climbed
and surged every way:
blinding of eyes, splitting of hearing.

And after it, the six men dead
the whole day;
among the shells snoring
in the morning,
and again at midday
and in the evening.

In the sun, which was so indifferent,
so white and painful;
on the sand which was so comfortable,
easy and kindly;
and under the stars of Africa,
jewelled and beautiful.

One Election took them
and did not take me,
without asking us
which was better or worse:
it seemed as devilishly indifferent
as the shells.

Six men dead at my shoulder
on an Autumn Day.

Sorley MacLean, from Caoir Gheal Leumraich / White Leaping Flame: Collected Poems (ed. by Christopher Whyte and Emma Dymock)

The Old Ardroe Bridge

This old footbridge over the uidhe that seperates Achmelvich from Ardroe has felt the footsteps of many generations of Assynt crofters. It is now in a state of collapse. The floor fell out at the end of April 2013. Now even the otter cannot cross it. - Bill Ritchie

Basking Shark

To stub an oar on a rock where none should be,
To have it rise with a slounge out of the sea
Is a thing that happened once (too often) to me.

But not too often - though enough. I count as gain
That once I met, on a sea tin-tacked with rain,
That roomsized monster with a matchbox brain.

He displaced more than water. He shoggled me
Centuries back - this decadent townee
Shook on a wrong branch of his family tree.

Swish up the dirt and, when it settles, a spring
Is all the clearer. I saw me, in one fling,
Emerging from the slime of everything.

So who's the monster? The thought made me grow pale
For twenty seconds while, sail after sail,
The tall fin slid away and then the tail.

Norman MacCaig, from The Many Days: Selected Poems of Norman MacCaig

The House by the Sea, Eriskay

This is where the drowned climb to land.
For a single night when a boat goes down

soaked footprints line its cracked path
as inside they stand open mouthed at a fire,

drying out their lungs, that hang in their chests
like sacks of black wine. Some will have stripped

down to their washed skin, and wonder
whether they are now more moon than earth –

so pale. Some worry about the passage,
others still think about the deep. All share

a terrible thirst, wringing their hands
until the seawater floods across the floor.

Niall Campbell, from Moontide

Magritte Macphail

It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.
René Magritte, on putting seemingly unrelated objects together in juxtaposition.

A rusting this,
a dented, pot shaped that,
an oatgrinder, half a caravan

the other half
slumped, sinking in the field,
sprouting a telly,
a welly

all evoking
the essential mystery
of the world
(west highland office)

and scattering it
across the croft,
like the rusted parts
of an old Trabant.

      But, lone piper
      of the unexplained,
      do we need surrealism
      and its strange signs?

      We have the fairy mounds,
      the circles,
      fluctuating broadband.