Below the surface above the surface ancient boats in the air move in a world where nothing floats and watery life and watery light flows everywhere Then when I turned to catch the view out of the curacao-blue I saw this weathered mooring stick rise from its own reflection and - Excaliber minus holding hand - impressively priapic, stand.
As yi grow aulder, yi begin tae relate mair tae auld, past-their-sellby-date things, like
Tae escape ma fiftieth birthday A took ma mind fir a bit o a daunder (or it took me) awa doon tae Corra’s snaa-white sanns, whaur ilka simmer, happier nor Larry, da nebbie selkies sun dersels an dere, half-happit i da lang dank gerss wis dis desfrukit skeleton o a boat…………
It brocht tae mind first wan o Johnny Donne’s deep wee poems ‘…bit ayways at ma back A hear/ Time’s tumtitumtum hurryin near..’ - dat wan - syne wan o Norrie MacCaig’s twa-fag verses - ‘So Many Summers’ it wis cried - aboot a desfrukit boat jist like dis yin, wedderwarpt, gapplankt, landlockt, auld.
A sat doon on da boat an lit masel a fag. Wis he sayin dat time teems us aa? Abdy an aathin? Du an me as weel as da boat? A hae ma doots. A dinnae think so. I do not think so. A feel kinna like yin o thon bren-washt terorists - gin A gang A'll tak abdy an aathin wi me.
Onywye as soon as A got hame A lookt up 'So Many Summers'. It wisnae ataa da poem A hud in mind. Da poem A hud in mind wis dis yin.
early one morning
I saw this horse
standing like horses do
because lying down would entail getting up –
all those long slender legs to organize
to raise its heavy barrel of a body
(not to mention the long neck
…..and that big head)
against the fearsome force of gravity.
Meanwhile the sun was lighting up the autumn leaves,
whitening and brightening the pale and acrid smoke,
casting long, long shadows
across the yellowing grass.
and later on I saw this hare
couched in the grass
(no, I didn’t mean ‘crouched’,
though ‘crouched’ would have done just as well)
huddled in the long green grass,
thinking either it was invisible
or I was blind
so I was able to sneak up quite close.
The whirr of the shutter
and it was off like a shot.
then in the sunny afternoon,
strange for our northern autumn,
two families wandered barefoot
onto the sunlit beach,
doing what people on beaches do:
drawing with heel and toe,
geometric shapes in the sand
using inadequate buckets
and bendy plastic spades
to build Canute castles and moats
against the incoming tide
rescuing odd things –
dolls’ heads, old ropes, tyres;
so good to handle;
sculpted by Giacometti;
ancient bottles with messages for help
signed by Robinson Crusoe….
stuff like that…..
gazing out to sea
but not really looking at or for anything,
letting the mind free-wheel
like a bicycle
on a gentle downhill slope,
standing, hands on hips,
watching his great lump of a stone
all the way
to the bottom
Then out of Tay’s curacao-blue
I saw this weathered mooring stick
rise from its own reflection and –
Excaliber minus holding hand –
when on my couch I lie
in vacant or in pensive mood
only these pictures
flashing through my mind,
and sip my drink and reminisce……
while I grant that this,
remembered images, the stuff
of poetry, the bliss
may be for some reward enough
it’s not for me
so, like the man from Porlock,
Some smart-ass has been fooling around with this photo and if I knew how to I would erase the witless text but anyhow this is the house where I was born and where I spent the first dozen years of my sadly short life. We were poor and often went without but I can’t recall ever being unhappy. Hungry, yes, but unhappy, no.
Even the yearly gathering of the stones was good fun in its way – hard work, yes, but after we and our neighbours had finished and had all linked arms round the cairn to sing the Ingatherin song, we would troop off home still arm-in-arm for the big meal and more singing and dancing. It was always a memorable day. And night.
But it was hard work. My father diligently farmed the harsh land between the house and the sea, giving up more and more of his time to the ungrateful fields, less and less to his impoverished family. Unlike his Ayrshire counterpart however, one day the coulter of his plough threw up something a bit more valuable than a wee mouse nest – a larchwood chest containing a dozen Celtic brooches, five rings, a couple of bracelets and the jaw bone of a porpoise. We all stood looking down at the opened box, our mouths as open as the box then mother began to cry but not unhappy tears and father just looked at the shiny gold ornaments and shook his head then looked at us all and grinned his big grin and shook his head a bit more.
With the money he eventually got for that miraculous find, we all left Gartwick, a move about which I had mixed feelings – leaving my best friend Callum and the hens and the pony and the fishing was only partly made up for by ( can I use 3 prepositions together like that? Anyway I have!) the excitement of the moving to someplace new, someplace I’d just read about. New York.
Only I never got there. Just before we left I went down to the sea to, I suppose, bid some sort of farewell to all the good times I’d had, and
Partir, c’est mourir un peu
or as Burns said:
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever….
Had we never lov’d sae kindly,
Had we never lov’d sae blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.
So fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweeli alas, for ever!
or, according to Groucho,
Hello, I must be going
I only came to say
I must be going
I’ll stay the whole night through
and all the next day too, but
I must be going.
I’ll see you by and by
wipe that tear from your eye
just try to remember
that day in September
(or was it November?)
the best day in our lives though
of course we didn’t know