Monday, 29 September 2008

29th September 2008

My friend Dogo Barry sets me a nice problem, one I’d already been pondering. It’s a question of how to continue a journal – a journey started - when I’m elsewhere.
Once, it might have been the sea paths, out through the Firth, west past the Mull of Kintyre, then north through the Sound of Islay & past Colonsay, west & north again round the Ross of Mull, the point of Ardnamurchan & east home. Now I follow the A82 north past Ben Lomond & Tarbet, rising up as I travel past Ben Lui to Tyndrum, where the hound & I stop, walk, drink water & to her delight, share a bag of chips. Then on to Orchy Bridge, across Rannoch Moor, through Glencoe, passing Glen Etive, cattle-fold to the sun, then Buachaille Etive Mor, Buachaille Etive Beag & Bidean nam Bian. The bridge at Ballachulish, then the ferry at Corran across the tidal rip (& it’s raining again) & over into Ardnamurchan & home.
This I do in memory. Ardnamurchan has become for me a state of mind. The seasons are strange here; as childhood may appear subjectively as summer-long leisure, these seasons of the ardnamurchan-mind come & go at their will, now autumn browns immediately followed by the greening of April.
I wrote this today & the following in April last year, for Practice Journal in California, which seems to have become a little unseasoned itself, its spring issue yet to appear.

April in the woods

No-one talks about Japanese prisons: how they might be a boiling hell for believers. You’ve been eaten by a machine of hell we somehow invented. A place was a good idea. Here I drink & watch sun on the second range of mountains but not the first. There is rain to the north & I’m supported by underground cables that buzz & hum through the world & surface wherever hell is manifested. There’s no appeal to the saints. There are so many because they’re all scruffy & drunk on something or other & we keep beatifying. The ewes here right now (though I didn’t want to mention them) are on pilgrimage across the saltflats & the radio speaks (or the man inside pulls the wires in ventriloquy) the story of a man dismembering a woman. Here I’m lifting the entire sky. It will stop raining. It will rain again. It is morning. It’s enough or maybe too much. To come home safe is all we ever wanted. Whatever home is. The pickaxe has toppled from where it was stuck in the thin crust of this poor earth & is rusting. Beasts & fantasies still live in the brain. But the soaring buzzard & dipping stonechat & spin of the very earth

Who started all this anyway & who said it was or could start & where will you go for it when the creek as you say runs dry. Why did you cut your birthday cake with a sword shazam when all the world is hungry & some maybe even most are starving. Hungry for what’s found at the heart of a nasturtium godsake it really is that simple. If not now when. & to wake up & find us all fed including the signatories to the bombs fed. & then the rain comes on again & where will you go for it. Come to it slowly approach it unawares. Nonchalance the order of the day. This is not philosophy more incontinence inability to stay sober & no-one is drinking here but come to it. Intoxicated with possibility. Enough of words for the now let’s examine the rocks and their twists & turns anticline syncline these & the water & its sweet rain can curlew can birch in the wind can fill the bay with salt water can let’s be up in the hills by the volcano sitting in a hot spring it’s called Hell Valley but we know what that means

Who for what for if you like we can talk of dharma of all the rest of that. More the distribution & disappearance as if they were ever appeared of species how to love the humble bee the bumble bee bombus and to sit patiently where there might be an underground nest & that person who demands tension has the weight of the atlas on his scapula & I know what another gin solves & why the thunderbug comes in thunder & who she brings with her what for being the only question & if it’s not to save & oldfangledly succour then there’s the door. The word knocks the skull to be let inside. Parasitic to synapses it exits diving off the tongue & flies & multiplies but dies in the winter & needs to start the cycle again it’s to escape that cycle we’re gathered here sweet ones

going north sing going south sing sitting still sing walking away sing oh buzzard♪ oh teacup waiting for me swallows visited yes♪terday leave the blue rope the line can slacken they’ll come back & the cuckoo oh

Friday goes & Saturday wine with it & two axes leaning by the wall & unmoved wood waiting for the unanswering tea if the reflection of the flag in the opposite side of the wobbly hut window moves in the wind what’s so to speak moving you would know my mind moving is agape its tongue lolling in purest wonder night stuff forgot forgot black tiny shadow traces of spiders in the north woods in the wren falls from the rowan jinks up for the stone where’s the in the where’s the cuckoo the empty (the! goosepair honk overhead

Thursday, 19 June 2008

19th June 2008
poems from the same series as the last couple of postings can be read online at There seems no need to duplicate them here when this link should take you directly there. There's part of another set there as well.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

April 23rd 2008

Sailean nan Cuileag

the pelt of sea its tongues
smooring & quenching &

plucking what will be left
at tide’s going air

of what’s uttered oystercatcher’s
pitch & pipe smew & craik of

curlew pulse of what’s given
what’s yielded what’s opened

Thursday, 3 April 2008

3rd April 2008

this is not an explanation or critique of the poem last posted, but another poem, titled


we construct landscape
as identity
there is no water imagine
imagine there is no sea loch
Resipole has its foundation
in syncline
cormorant curves in
that nothing which is something
already easing away
the mountain’s walking off
into that hour before
dawn that is the same every
where everywhere

Monday, 17 March 2008

17th March 2008

Camas Torsa

glacier talks
under ocean moon

above Resipole rises & shrinks
tide swills & hangs

Spindrift’s gutting across
sun’s line of gulls

its engine throb hub
of the scoured world

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

March 3rd 2008

wearing a summer hat.
walked out into powdery snow.

Shimpei Kusano: Certain Days

Leap Year’s day came & went. The smallest hind of Gobsheallach hill has not been seen for five days; in her place is a small stag, timid & keeping close to the two larger hinds as they move across the bay, exposed, & as they browse on the sparse green among rusting bracken. Has the small hind been shot, or is there some transformation happening here in this corner of a materialistic land where a white stag can be explained by leucism?

I’m content here, heaping language onto landscape, through winter’s mouldering, now watching spring’s shoots; but I’m leaving Ardnamurchan, on a day of blizzards alternating with the blue-blindness of cloud free skies. The dramas of the mountains, companionable Beinn Resipol & Beinn Hianta in Morvern & the doings of the waters: Loch Shiel, Loch Sunart, & Abhainn an Iubhair & the burns & puddles no longer ask my daily attention. Spring is a good time to leave; though here, in this journal I will still be writing, though more slowly, of the walking of last summer, last spring, grounded in memory & experience. The Atlantic wind will blow my nose cold from another quarter. Like any trumpeting swan I’m migrating; like any wild goose, I’ll land again on this bog, unworked since the sixties, near Airigh Bheagaig.

Back in September I wrote of the notion of a weblog (though I call this a journal) being a we blog. Of late, comments have been arriving & have been most welcome. They will be more welcome in weeks to come, as I post new entries, poem-drafts even; back-channel (as I write this, I see the south channel between the mainland & Eilean Shona) or here, publicly. The mountains’ll keep on walking & I in my green knit hat rushing to tongue the snow.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

27th February 2008

The moon’s sliding the sea into its tidal heaping back into the bay again.
How tender the hill is where the woodlands are thin; a child with solitary promise. Spring is here, whatever the weather, & it has been wild & wet, but mild with it. The colonies of birch with their hair-like traceries of twigs have small ochre leafbuds & are putting out their first catkins. Spring’s not reluctant, but I’m happy still to be in the bareness of the woods, finding great pleasure in the journey; enjoying the forms of the trees & their limbs, boughs, branches & twigs rising towards the increased light of advancing days. Unless it’s possible to appreciate the underlying structure of winter’s austerity, then surely it would be hard to welcome the leaf, blossom & fruit of summer. I’m reminded here of just how much like purple figs alder buds are, just at the point of ripening; it’s a matter of scale. The hazels have extended their lime green catkins; every branchlet terminates with a small club shaped bud. The contorted willows (weather does this, it’s not a true contorted form) have tiny rufous buds. Each fragile brittle length of woodbine ends with six newly opened leaves, while amid the tangle, in the sheltered hollows where burns roll to the sea, the first handsbreadth blades of flag iris thrust their sword leaves through rust brown rot from clearly visible rhizomes. The furze has been flowering a month & more, its almond scented yellow a discussion of dormancy with the iris, which will not show colour for a full two months yet. There’s a rippling cloud in every transient puddle; the newly minted translucency of holly leaves glows against the dark green waxyness of the old sharp foliage. The little faint buds of the dogrose call the pink-white flowers that’ll rise from stems. Aspens, still now, have heavy pointed chocolate coloured buds, which will soon start their wind whispering as leaves. Out at sea a curlew’s ringing its song. & the oaks - all ages leaning into the hill, woven with ivies, sheltering holly & birch saplings, their every branch-end knobbled & swelling , last year’s lobed & brown papery leaves still clinging, the mossy oaks are distending their strong pointed buff & sandy buds. Everything’s bubbling & fizzing its irresistible course through trunk & stem, through sap, bud & blood. On the rocks, lichens continue their concentric growth like soft moist meandering trails of night time snails.

There’s a convocation of crows in a half mile circle around me, from rock to outermost tree top; they bow & sing rasping beautiful songs & no-one to hear; no-one to see their spanning but the seven hinds of Airigh Bheagaig, eyebright & long soft leather ears pricked, & a solitary sceptical buzzard hunched in her own glamour.
I’m back at the Byre just as the sulphur coloured evening rain begins its downpour, lashing bud & me & the incoming sea alike.