Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘separation’

ALL THE WATERS

I cannot stay and I cannot go.
My heart melts like ice
On the high valleys in April
And I am given, melted to crow
And the cry of curlew.
Taken up and laid down:
All cool rain on the grasses
Of the rolling meadow,
A drift of cloud, a mist,
A risen vapour turning,
An Ascension to light,
A transfigured condensation.

All the waters of the world
Are one river.

By the bent and tangled hawthorn
We wait and wait long
For the return of blossom.
Yet we always are surprised-
The wealth of cream incense
Laid upon it, arching down,
The fragrant dew,
The hum of bees,
The expanse of growing summer.
The heart bursts open
To the horizon’s edge of light.
Warmed and belonging
A simple home
A simple return.

For all the waters of the world
Are one river.

And all the lost and drowned,
Flesh taught as dolls,
Roll now to and fro
In the breakers
On the tourist beaches.
Their last breath unheard,
Surrendered to the waters.
Their names and origins
In the thick, green weeds
Feeding tides and fishes,
Rolling, sightless, a little more,
Til they, dissolved in bubbles,
And rising now, meet the air they were refused
In the lands of milk and honey,
The brambled cliffs,
The stain of fallen fruit,
The rag-tag remains.
Bitter will be the tears, bitter and salt
As they ever are,
Dubbed with senseless poisons
And reasons and reasons why
And why not.

How long
before we learn
All the waters of the world
Are one river.

2015/10/img_1652.jpg

Read Full Post »

Yew textures

13

Equation

Belonging and separation
These, the truth of all relating.
Belonging and separation,
These, the fabric of all existences.
Belonging and separation:
The biology of being
The song of the heart
The engine of thoughts
The migration of souls
The tide of peoples
The stick and goad of leaders
The yearning of lovers
The fear of death.

Staying in one place:
The rowan, the birch
Taking up, letting go,
Bending to withstand rain,
Rising in springtime.

A blessing to all
A curse to none.
The house of trees
Ever remaining.

I breathe in
The wood of my own making:
The spliced double oak
Of my lungs
Shattering separation,
Drawing in life to life.
Feeding the forest
Of my blood, a red tide
Whispering the twin rivers
Of extension and return.
My own yew and alder,
Heart life, deep-rooted.

A dream of trees,
This world.
A home of trees.
A house of trees,
An open sanctuary,
A boundary of contentment.

The bright tumbling birches-
I breathe their fluid lightning,
Sucked in to my belly.
Spinning, revolving, sweeping away
Sorrow, liquid atonement,
A clarity of spiral song,
A reverberation of pure note.

I breathe in the star snow of rowan,
A descent of clustered frost,
Rock-borne, persistent.
A waterfall descent of night
Shot through with sparks of song.
A tumbled universe
Bridging beginnings and ends.
A resonance of watching silence.

I breathe the resin air of pine,
A seed of taste on the tongue-tip.
Awakened presence, reminder of place.
I breathe out the distant glimmer
Through the centre of my eyes,
Arrow-straight, target-less,
Horizon’s endless pull.

The tree of memory.
The tree of branching thought.

I breathe the sweep of ash,
The straight, silent spear tip of it,
Key to all houses.

I breathe the shattering quiver
Of aspen the whisperer.
A fountain of echoes,
Shaking each nerve tip
With rippled delight.

I breathe without movement
A perfect balance of oak.
Remaining poised,
Certain stitch, well held.

And I breathe a pool of yew,
Contracting, expanding, bubbled time,
A well of silence,
A well of time.

Half here, half elsewhere,
The dancers know that tune
Of leaf and root, galliard of the seasons.
The slow inhalation of moments,
The gnat-cloud of thought
Dispersed and reformed
In new pools of sunlight.

The house of trees:
Allowing the dark,
Allowing the stillness,
Acquiescing to gravity
And the yearning for light.
Placed, established, settled.
Whilst we,
Free to wander
But rootless and unsatisfied,
Busy to hide the doubt of silence,
The insistence of other questions.
Always running away, scurrying.
Better stories
Awaiting beyond.

It is time (surely) to
Attain a place,
An open view,
learning to remain.

Over the hills of Knoydart
The clouds have settled.
Dawn stills the waters
Between Raasay and the deep wood.
Distilled essence,
Liquid morning.
All roads and paths
To elsewhere
Are empty.

The house of trees:
A beginning and an end
Of remembering.

tall trees

Read Full Post »

moss cave

11

The tasting of edges

Here is how it is,
How it was:
From the vastness of sleep
A coagulation, a gravitation
Towards the poignant edge.
The bliss of voiceless silence
Shaped and constrained:
Electrical motion, remembering, defining
The surge of emotion, the
Tumble of language, the assertion
Of primacy, constraint, neural nets
To catch and take hold, own,
Possess, reject, disown, demean.

The walls of this house,
Our house,
Sure against the gale,
Black and warmed.

Here’s the truth of it:
This language is not my own,
Not my words, not my syntax,
Not my thoughts, nothing new.
History: the reiteration
Of the forgotten blood
Still roaring changeless
Down the rivers of the years.

Here we are:
Rooted, belonging,
Our right,
A place to return to,
Warm in the soot-blackened darkness
(The winds screaming, battering, squeezing
Sound from tumbling dust).

A silver flash on the black waters,
Leaping fish way beyond the heron’s gaze.
The tawny glen, its tawny sides
Closing in as day’s end darkens.
Where are the fires?
Where are the voices?
The footsteps of those returning home,
The yawns of babes
Turning in belly-filled sleep?

The roaring tide has left.
Its sound diminishes.
The white, wheeling gulls
Are silent specks, the dark horizon.

We are left at a peace
We do not want,
Wordless sorrow for the misplaced.

I’ll tell you of the purest emotion,
Feeling that is free of judging,
Free of qualification.
It is the only language of the heart.
Music, the language without definition,
The summoning of tears and smiles,
Our greatest blessing to the universe.
A song, wordless and unequivocal,
A language universal, sublime,
Fearful, shaking the roots of things,
A net for the Almighty’s scatterings.

(I would barely trust one
Who could not find a tune
With nimble fingers,
Who could not speak verse
As if it were his own heart talking,
Whose words stay cowled behind
Heavy drapes of seemly logic,
Whilst inward, seethes and rails
Against opinion not his own.)

It is not here
In the dream of standing alone.
It is not here
In the upright light of independence.
Uprooted, it is not possible to find a place,
Poor and worthless, it is not possible
To find gold or glory.
It is the same voice
As it ever was:
The clever words well-weighted,
Reasonable.

The rain on the roof,
The wind at the door.
We huddle
Holding the weaving of stories,
The paths telling how we got here,
The choices, the turns, the betrayals.
Cold draughts sweep abandoned corners.

The water does not fight the rock,
It tunes its song and flows around.
It is neither this nor that.
The stepping stones in the flood –
Not the only way to cross.

This house of trees –
It is a house of despair,
A house of howling winds.

This house of trees –
It is a bounty of bright life,
A re-population of delight.

This house of trees –
It is a signal to all
The tyranny of the past has fled.

This house of trees –
It is a plight of bitterness,
An empty, starved gesture of despair.

Delight and despair –
Sunlight and shadows on the hills.
Holding firm is not the way of life.
Freedom and independence, not
A way to understand life.
The making of edges
Is the sound and silence of the tune,
A convolution of anticipation.

Each edge, though,
Neither this, neither that.
We define too closely,
Barter truth for surety
Miss the paradox,
Hold too tightly.

The bright edge is a sword
That severs as the sunlight is a sword
That blinds the sight.

Coming over the hill –
The sharp curtain of the Cuillins,
The still waters of Ord.

Belonging or not belonging:
I borrow my breath
From the exhalation of sparrows
I borrow my sight
From the sparkle of waterfalls
I borrow my heart
From the song of dust and worm
I borrow my words
From the whispers of the dead,
From MacLeod under the sky,
From the white bones, the bleached bones.

I am nothing
But a continuance
Nothing but a path
Made by those gone on before
A house of trees
A house of birdsong
A house of utterance
A forever
Dreaming of a walled instant
Of peace.

BlackCuillins Ord

Read Full Post »

Skye road

6

The fairy bridge

See the cars speeding fast and low
Along the thin, black tarmac ribbons,
Crisp laid over the rolling moors.
Hardly noticing,
Oblivious to the blur of heaped stones,
The dips and corners of bypassed histories.

Speeding around the proud, sleek corners
Leaping the old valleys left silent, shaded.
Easy, then, to miss the Fairy Bridge
Where MacLeod of Dunvegan
Found and lost his fairy wife
In a place between here and there,
Neither rock nor water, earth nor air,
A hunched road between hunched hills.

Left in sorrow,
(Impossible to span such a distinction of worlds,
Falling asleep for centuries
Or cursed with too much guiltless joy,
The dance never ending),
He returns to his empty home with a last gift:
A flag, furled against desperate times,
A promise of three victories out from despair.
Doomed to crumble, disappear in tatters,
Worm-eaten, forgotten, misplaced, tear-stained.

A thin withering, a frayed thread,
The clear glory imagined now dust,
A past that bartered its continuance
Without suspecting anything except valediction,
The clear glorious road ahead smudged with sunset storm,
A dark path abandoned by light.

The Fairy bridge,
Between time and space, here and there,
A feather touch of fame and fortune,
A moth touch of death, a kiss, a whisper,
A foot placed right, a foot placed wrong,
A slip, a sliver, a glint of gold, a refrain coded,
A yearning, a whole nation beguiled,
Mazed, lost, cast away,
(The blue distant shimmer, the smooth green hillside of freedom).

He doubts now:
Did he dream it? The long years of love and laughter,
The line and weight of beauty,
The grace of hand and fall of cloth?
And what was the cause?
What was done, what left undone,
What path unnoticed, what riddle unsolved?
What required answer not given
At the right time, the right place?

The song is: if only.
The grief of not knowing, or of knowing too late.
Gold cast away into mud, the firm, fast knot slipped.
To give and take is sacrifice,
To give the most must lose the most.

Swept away,
They have all been swept away,
By time, by foolishness, by a repayment of debts.
The land parceled, emptied,
Lorded over, an amusement for weekends,
A respite from care,
A cleared killing ground,
A desolation of aristocracies.

ferns

Read Full Post »

CillChroisd

So, since our trip to Skye in late October I have been alert for fragments of a long piece called “The House of Trees”. It is an archaeological process: I have seen the overview, the aerial photographs of anomalous markings. I suspect the subject matter, what lurks below the undisturbed ¬†grass, intimations of structure, an outline, a definite definition. Season by season, I return to gaze from different angles ( the low light or high light revealing something or nothing), tentatively trowel away a little soil ( gold being such a flighty treasure, turning to tin can or brass if not approached with delicacy). Gradually an accumulation of relics, lines, phrases, rivers, posies is piling up. So I have decided to display some current finds, unreconstructed, scrubbed, labeled.

The sections so far can be defined thus:

The pivotal images are a small derelict burial chapel beside a moorland road. Initially I was drawn to it by a large twining ivy plant, white and bone-dead, crawling up the roofless walls. But also a small group of yew trees under which a relatively new gravestone had been placed, so that they acted as a living green monument, evergreen in a windswept, wan landscape.

On the other side of the island, on the main road to and from Portree, we passed several times a deserted croft, again roofless, but this one filled with a copse of young trees. It was not in the middle of nowhere, but on the edge of a small village, newer houses just a stone’s throw away.

Both images of time, of mortality, of people living and passing on. The history of Scotland is depressing: bleak repetition of small conflicts, betrayals, squabbles, misunderstandings, bigotry, famines, disasters, displacement, loss, exploitation of the poor by the rich. As such it is not so different from any other nation’s histories. Perhaps Scotland’s historians were less persuaded by a ruling elite to gloss and gild the facts. The small population, the difficult terrain, has meant that lost villages, deserted houses have not been swept away by succeeding generations. The bitter, unthinking inhumanities that so stain a country’s historical development still remain, accusing, daring the passer-by to forget at their peril.

And the rigid, bombastic stupidity of councils, governments and landowners often encourage a wistful nostalgia for something that never was – a free and unified nation.

The romantic, Isle of Skye, (and by God, it is romantic), for example was parcelled up between bellicose clans, each taking possession of one of the peninsulas. MacDonalds, MacLeods, MacGregors and more, all continuing the Celtic Iron Age ( British) tradition of cattle raiding their neighbours, taking hostages, not trusting each other.

And parallel to this, the mythic grandeur of the Highland imagination ( again, a relict from pre-Christian cosmologies). The Second Sight, the Secret Commonwealth of the Fairy Nations, the spirit haunted wilds, the thin veils between Other worlds that pervade the folk history, the music and the sense of place. It is this that first fuels the project. Sitting in silence one evening I had a sense of being watched by the curious non-human eyes of the island’s Good People, and the memorable fancy that they began weaving, implanting, encouraging images, words, ideas. With that came the contrast and similarity between these mythic entities and the nation’s yearning for Independence, Freedom, Self Rule that re-emerges every generation or so ( and to a lesser extent every Saturday night when “Flower of Scotland” gets slurily echoed down the cobbled streets, especially after the traditional thrashing by England of the nearly always lamentable national football team.).

Time is different in mountain country. Each valley, each glen runs at its own speed, collecting its own data, developing its own reasons, its own story. The horizons are small, the world is a house with walls of green and brown slopes. Legend piles up, each place named for the event it remembers. Memory inhabits and flavours.

The city has its own time too, but it is a time shared by all other cities. Its urgencies are not local, it is fed by roads from elsewhere, it feeds also on its inhabitants, who are within its complex alimentary canal, slowly dissolving. Few cities exist within the landscape. They squat upon it, learning to disregard the geography as the years progress. Cities are not self sustaining. They are parasitical, drawing on the goodness from beyond their walls. Without the constant inflow of raw materials and nourishment, cities will quickly collapse in on themselves, self digesting in panic and confusion.

Anyway, here is the first part, as it is at present. (I will post a few other completed sections in the next few days – so far about ten parts).

THE HOUSE OF TREES

Part 1: A Harbouring of Voices

Come tumbling

Like birds for crumbs:

These lines

Bidden and unbidden,

Broken and insistent

Like gulls.

Small as sparrows,

Bright as chaffinches,

Cautious, sidelong, black watchfulness

As of crows.

Woven, twisted, rooted-

A faint echo from the hill.

For here is not the silence of the far North

Nor its diamond thinness of light.

In the dark the bones gather together,

Get up and dance,

Mutter and gesture seeking meaning,

Seeking purpose.

Plaintive, scolding

Finding tongue.

Whose voice

Is the possessor of truth?

It rises and sinks back hidden,

Forming and unforming,

Like a cormorant on slow black waters:

It will be where it was not,

Leaving no ripples of history or intent.

Ripples LochBay

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: