r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: Reaching Helmsdale

Reaching Helmsdale

If it weren't for
this red tweed jacket
I bought in Brora
I might well wonder
if we'd ever gone
north of Inverness.

We shouldn't need proof
but do, it not being
normal to crowd in
so many slow years
to three or four hours
cuffed by a sea-wind

and buffeted by
non-highland music
from the Highland Games
up on Castle Park
(now called Cowper Park
– no-one can say why).

We'd come a long way
to look at gravestones:
we could read father
was 'devoted' while
mother was 'beloved'.
Weren't both 'beloved'?

Wandering I saw
Andrew Rutherford
had four doctorates
(honorary) chipped
on his stone. And Nan
MacLeod my once fierce

maths teacher, mother's
best friend and bête noire,
had an out-of-place
middle name: Percy.
Her mother Lizzie
sat by a peat fire

trapped and arthritic.
Unmoving the stones
turn their backs on us.
Blind they look through us.
This brash easterly
from the Moray Firth

is not going to stop:
the longer it comes
to blow in my mind
the harder it will
tug at my coat-sleeves
my hair my eyelids.

Robin Fulton Macpherson

a day in Helmsdale


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