Little gets past the blue-eyed
collie who never sleeps: wired, rigid,
head turned by instinct, all her being
tensed to the instant where the car flies nearest
(one day she'll take the plunge
and take the impulse with her.)
No, but she can tell: could taste it on the air
before a match was ever struck.
So too, the barnacle geese: lifting with their crash of
seats abandoned in a fleapit theatre.
Our scorched earth policy hardly
favours all the animals--
for the grouse's nibbles there are others
left with nose (or beak) out of joint.
The ribbon road: like a child's depiction of such,
past the dip haunted by the otter,
a feather-turn of radio matching
waveform of verge and fence
to the ebb of whispering Bob's lament,
then seeing Hellisay—on fire, arcs and spirals
of red showing her muirburn's leading edge.
His home well mothballed, carpetless, slot-scored
Bell's bottle full of coppers by the doormat.
Thumb on chest he called himself The Wreck of the Hesperus;
smelling the muirburn on my clothes
he remarked on it as I went about my work.
Given whisky for our efforts: 'A smoor,' he said,
offering no water to put out the fire.
Returning on the ribbon road, it was late enough
for the shipping forecast: song of the nightingale
translated for sky and sea, Hebrides as ever
covering all bases with good, occasionally poor.
For the hell of it, on my own gowk's errand,
I climbed Ben Eoligarry, sat in anticipation of dawn.
There, on the horizon, Hellisay burned on,
sending up a plaintive banner of cloud for the geese--
and for that blue-eyed collie, who would not sleep
until the sun came to kill the flame.
Published in Stand 197.
My novel The Last of us was published by The Borough Press in April 2016.