poem01 Oct 2018 06:23 am

You stitched your clothes with feathers.
Hitched your unwinged self
over the cliff-side dripping with guano
for the harvest of birds.

Gannets and guillemots and gulls,
fulmars, snipe, bonxies, plovers and puffins
and the pterodactyl skuas
fastening you to the stony ground

to the gray bounds of sea and sky.
Trusting your life not to slip.
Invaded by good mainland intentions
that undermined everything.

What need for windows in stone houses
when the view was not rare—
you lived your life in and out of it.
Tamp out the peat fire and hobble

away. A thousand hard and airborne years
broken by the world that is not this place.
Not peat, not stone, not the track
made by sheep. Abandon the tight Cs

of the cleits, the storehouses
dotting the slopes cairn-like,
planted obsessively against the travails
of sea and sky and starvation,

vented to let the wind
keep the contents dry
so the constant rain wouldn’t rot
everything that kept you breathing.

The walls thicker than the space
they contain. Part nature, part culture
both parts alive. The mystery now
inside the clinging, vacant Cs,

always in sight of the sea
sometime shelter for the wild-now sheep
often their last. This is the world
your ancients built and time muddles

to tumbles of eroding stones erasing
the marks of human hands till no one
can read how it dies and is dead. Clouds
wool-heavy on the hills so empty of you.

photo is “Cleit for storing fuel or hay on St Kilda” by Richard Keaton, Dec. 31, 1897.

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