r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: December 2015

Happy Hogmanay

Mairi Campbell

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr dhuibh uile!
Happy New Year to you when it comes! :)

A Walk Through the Gaelic Alphabet

Walking through the same trees
though in a different language
wading in the long river running
of words
among the hawthorn, birch and alder
the same words
wych elm, bramble, ivy
gorse of the thousand swords
no new words.
On the hill slope
there is oak and ash, there is elder,
willow in the damp places
dwarf, goat, crack, white willow
trees that make the same words.
Then there is larch
and pine of the bare hill
ranked now in squares
words in a new order.

Each letter of the Gaelic alphabet is represented by a different species of tree.

Angus Dunn, from the High Country

a Christmas in Orkney

Merry Christmas


There is a god who tends
the empty corners of public places
the spaces where no one goes
the gaps between buildings
the lonely strip
where two roads meet
and no one stays.

Bless us in those empty spaces
where a young woman –
whose grandson is old now
and lives in Nova Scotia –
threw crumbs to the hens
and a young man
hauled seaweed to the lazy bed.

Bless us where their song
and that of their neighbours
can not be heard
though the wind still moves
through bog-cotton and rushes,
over the small face of the tormentil.

Bless us also in those places less well-known
where the location of a path is forgotten
a tool is no longer recognized by its use
names have gone and will not return.

Angus Dunn, from High Country

Silence the colour of snow

Silence the colour of snow,
settles against everything we love –
the late, startled flowers, the roadside stones -
all edges softened, all calamities blurred.

Why do you accuse me of never talking with you?
You know, they used to say that
if all the tongues in the world were stilled at once,
their common silence would translate itself

to a snow that even the summer winds
could never drive away. Hush now, not another word.
Look! High over the frozen manger,
my answer hangs and falls, that six fingered star.

John Glenday


Exile I am, for to the last, I carry in my
heart the oak groves of Derry with their
white angels from end to end that I have
seen but seldom since this wayward wing of the
house of high kings, that rendered not to
Caesar, was sent the swan’s way to be purged of
pride – far past my people’s
lands – lovely Islay of the geese that lies across the
kyle, and mild Kintyre that reaches always
out to mother Eire, all the Atlantic on to
Alba a glamour of green islands and
seas silver or blue, but pagan
places, so that the dove’s descent on Ararat had
not more joy in it than I had in my heart when
first I landed on the smooth white sands of
this my own Iona.
                               Eilean Idhe, holy island, this is
surely close to Heaven: green as a
shamrock, its very stones washed
long-since in the Saviour’s blood, it is an
axle-tree on which there turns a world of
water, light and space so pure that
men grow wings. My brothers in my own
time have followed flights of birds until they
found the far-flung Faroes, with other isles,
empty of souls, and carved the cross in
rock there to claim even these for Our Lord. We have
carried that cross to Pictish places and
saved pagan souls, making peace between
peoples, and here in high austerity our
scholars labour sweetly on the beauty of The Word.
Thus is my penance turned to high
purpose, for which I thank God.

Ian McFadyen, from Tom's Boat and Other Poems

on the library

it shone at night
it shone beautifully

it shone like the eddystone
it shone like the fire-cave
it shone like the old torpedo works
it shone like honeycomb spreadsheets
it shone like alchemy alley
it shone like aurora midnight mass
it shone like a plainchant surge
it shone like a troubadour fragment
it shone like test-site instruments
it shone like towerblock hypodermics
it shone like a harvest moon supper
it shone like famine eyes
it shone like harmonica railtrack
it shone like the tiger sonata
it shone like chandelier futures
it shone like the twilight home past
it shone like news from another star
it shone like the road to ruin
it shone like iron in the soul
it shone like an ampoule of angel dust
it shone like a fistful of martyr clippings
it shone like oranges in a net
it shone like torches in a deep dark forest
it shone like grandma's fireside
it shone like the wicked queen's smile
it shone like the necklace left in the laurel
it shone like the ring spilled in the reeds
it shone like a god's pursuit sandals
it shone like an autumn arboretum
it shone like the cherry pond spring
it shone like a thief's deep pockets
it shone like a jackdaw's escape velocity
it shone like a pirate's night-sweats
it shone like riot in lakeside towns
it shone like an islay lock-in
it shone like a boxful of butterflies
it shone like a web at the wood's edge
it shone like blazing hilltop victory
it shone like the valley of last resort
it shone like the story of you and me

it shone all night

Alasdair Paterson, from on the governing of empires