Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 107: Isle of Harris

The Tennis Court. Isle Of Harris

The September road was a single track
Squirming west through hills barely tolerant
Of grass already browned by salt and wind.

It swayed in a compass dither
Upwards to a sky just lighter
Than itself then dipped seaward to another grey.

Like nunataks in ice rocks (more greys),
Made dumb threats through hostile slopes.
Black roadside ditches carved by foreign
Interventions were the only boundaries
Of man’s control, we thought, until
We met another outpost of his will.

Something anathema to wilderness,
A square. It’s not the vivid green
That bothers you, it’s the conformity
Of grass height (or lack of height
Owing nothing to the ravaging of sheep),
Of rigidly controlled white lines
Secured behind neat triangles
Of mechanically-contrived wire,
And all this carved, levelled, squared
Out of the living roundness of the hill.
And then the last irrelevance, a tiny
Painted clubhouse with a window.
The lack of human figures seemed most apt.
This surely was no place for white apparel
Sheathing bronzed and supple limbs
Or blazered bosses on high chairs..

So we went on to Hushinish,
To the living sand swirling ankle height
And wavelets making futile forays
On the rocks. To six houses that had
Grown slowly from the ground.
And a bent man digging.

Derek Crook

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