Lichen Circles

Alone in this bay near Port Mary
only the waves creeping in
and the squeal of a buzzard
high on a clifftop for company

even hotter than yesterday
less wind, sea less frantic

I lie here on this shingle beach
in the early evening sun
until the sea laps my ankles
and the sun’s shadows grow long

around me sea pinks on wizened rock
terns diving out by the reef

three hours I’ve lain here now
among the glistening wet pebbles
and the lime green lichen circles

sky blue all blue
and a heat haze
right along the coast of Mull

drifting with the haze taking it all in
becoming those lichen circles.

Norman Bissell, from Slate, Sea and Sky: a journey from Glasgow to the Isle of Luing

Autumn at Kincraig

Yellow birch leaves fall like flakes
on rooted rutted forest tracks
rain splatters
on plastic hoods among the woods.

Tawny oaks and bronzy bracken
beech leaves thickly dark and molten
as we walk
in single rank along the bank.

The living river far below
a dark brownish steady flow
then shower of sun
gently catches golden larches.

Tessa Ransford, from Not Just Moonshine: new and selected poems

For the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 9 October 2004

Open the doors! Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!
We have a building which is more than a building.
There is a commerce between inner and outer, between brightness and shadow,
      between the world and those who think about the world.
Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together like petals of a flower,
      yet they also send their tongues outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A growl of old Gothic
      grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but curves and caverns, nooks
      and niches, huddles and heavens, syncopations and surprises. Leave
      symmetry to the cemetery.
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite and grey granite,
      seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete blond and smooth as silk – the mix is
      almost alive – it breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!

Come down the Mile, into the heart of the city, past the kirk of St Giles and the
      closes and wynds of the noted ghosts of history who drank their claret and
      fell down the steep tenements stairs into the arms of link-boys but who
      wrote and talked the starry Enlightenment of their days –
And before them the auld makars who tickled a Scottish king's ear with melody
      and ribaldry and frank advice –
And when you are there, down there, in the midst of things, not set upon an hill
      with your nose in the air,
This is where you know your parliament should be
And this is where it is, just here.

What do the people want of the place? They want it to be filled with thinking
       persons as open and adventurous as its architecture.
A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of 'it wizny me' is what they do not
Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians, you are picking up a thread of
       pride and self-esteem that has been almost but not quite, oh no not quite,
       not ever broken or forgotten.
When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not wholly the power,
       not yet wholly the power, but a good sense of what was once in the honour
       of your grasp.
All right. Forget, or don't forget, the past. Trumpets and robes are fine, but in the
       present and the future you will need something more.
What is it? We, the people, cannot tell you yet, but you will know about it when
      we do tell you.
We give you our consent to govern, don't pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don't say we have no
      mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building, don't let your work and hope be other than great
      when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.

Edwin Morgan

Radio Scottish Democracy

You hear an old man scratching himself
Before he gets up at Kinlochmoidart.

You tune in to a woman in Lima, yawning.
You listen to what hasn't happened yet, the shout

That is still just an intake of breath;
Straining so hard, your imagination

Becomes a microphone for the future.
A new voice starts to come unjammed

Against a rout of white-noise, Floddens,
Cullodens, nostalgias that rhyme,

When kilties went roaring over the grass,
Fell on it, let it grow through them.

You pick up words moving - towards or away?
Reaction times quicken. Is that it? Listen -

Not to dour centuries of trudging,
Marching, and taking orders;

Today I have heard the feet of my country
Breaking into a run.

Robert Crawford, from Talkies (1992)

The Morning After

Scotland, 19th September 2014

Let none wake despondent: one way
or another we have talked plainly,
tested ourselves, weighed up the sum
of our knowing, ta’en tent o scholars,
checked the balance sheet of risk and
fearlessness, of wisdom and of folly.

Was it about the powers we gain or how
we use them? We aim for more equality;
and for tomorrow to be more peaceful
than today; for fairness, opportunity,
the common weal; a hand stretched out
in ready hospitality.

It’s those unseen things that bind us,
not flag or battle-weary turf or tartan.
There are dragons to slay whatever happens:
poverty, false pride, snobbery, sectarian
schisms still hovering. But there’s
nothing broken that’s not repairable.

We’re a citizenry of bonnie fighters,
a gathered folk; a culture that imparts,
inspires, demands a rare devotion,
no back-tracking; that each should work
and play our several parts to bring about
the best in Scotland, an open heart.

Christine De Luca

The Voyage

And if or when the people's surge subsides
to tourist trickles from this present spate,
do not relax or quietly desiccate,
do not raise dykes against their future tides:
push out your boats onto the rising seas
of all their desolations, hopes, needs, dreams,
flooding the city streets and housing schemes,
the hospitals, schools, farms and factories.
For in the end a Parliament is not
a building, but a voyage of intent,
a journey to whatever we might be.
This is our new departure, this is what
we opted for, solid and permanent,
yet tenuous with possibility.

James Robertson, from Voyage of Intent: Sonnets and Essays from the Scottish Parliament

Speaking of Scotland

What do you mean when you speak of Scotland?
The grey defeats that are dead and gone
behind the legends each generation
savours afresh, yet can’t live on?

Lowland farms with their broad acres
peopling crops? The colder earth
of the North East? Or Highland mountains
shouldering up their rocky dearth?

Inheritance of guilt that our country
has never stood where we feel she should?
A nagging threat of unfinished struggle
somehow forever lost in the blood?

Scotland’s a sense of change, an endless
becoming for which there was never a kind
of wholeness or ultimate category.
Scotland’s an attitude of mind.

Maurice Lindsay, from Collected poems 1940-1990

'Scotland small?'

Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?
Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliché corner
To a fool who cries ‘Nothing but heather!’ where in September another
Sitting there and resting and gazing around
Sees not only the heather but blaeberries
With bright green leaves and leaves already turned scarlet,
Hiding ripe blue berries; and amongst the sage-green leaves
Of the bog-myrtle the golden flowers of the tormentil shining;
And on the small bare places, where the little Blackface sheep
Found grazing, milkworts blue as summer skies;
And down in neglected peat-hags, not worked
Within living memory, sphagnum moss in pastel shades
Of yellow, green, and pink; sundew and butterwort
Waiting with wide-open sticky leaves for their tiny winged prey;
And nodding harebells vying in their colour
With the blue butterflies that poise themselves delicately upon them;
And stunted rowans with harsh dry leaves of glorious colour.
‘Nothing but heather!’ ̶ How marvellously descriptive! And incomplete!

Hugh MacDiarmid, excerpt from 'Dìreadh I', from
Complete Poems, Vol. II


It requires great love of it deeply to read
The configuration of a land,
Gradually grow conscious of fine shadings,
Of great meanings in slight symbols,
Hear at last the great voice that speaks softly,
See the swell and fall upon the flank
Of a statue carved out in a whole country’s marble,
Be like Spring, like a hand in a window
Moving New and Old things carefully to and fro,
Moving a fraction of flower here,
Placing an inch of air there,
And without breaking anything.
So I have gathered unto myself
All the loose ends of Scotland,
And by naming them and accepting them,
Loving them and identifying myself with them,
Attempt to express the whole.

Hugh MacDiarmid, from Complete Poems, Michael Grieve and W.R. Aitken