Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 115: Fingal's Cave

A Letter to my Daughter
On the Cave of Melody

In Oxford’s towers do you have tutes today?
Upon a peel of bells do you move out
through library and lab to make your way
back home through Jericho? I long to shout
through all the trumpet blasts and spires, to say
those things we feel but seldom talk about.

There’s so much talk about it and about.
I wonder, if he walked the Turl today,
as tides move in and then as tides move out,
as boats are built and Sat-Navs find their way
to guide us on this swell of waves that shout
a climate’s change, what would old Khayam say?

At Fionnphort, where Ossian had his say,
the Sound of Mull blows bardic words about,
it moves a white sand bay. We spent a day
in silence there to journey in and out
of rocks; the quarry of its rose stone way
could peel back time. We heard the women shout

from their trapped isle. We heard Iona shout
herself to song. Then Staffa called to say
that we must find a way to come about,
that we must find a way to come by day,
to journey in and then to journey out.
Her boatman came to take us on the way

to Uamh-Binn. Your flute was stowed away
as fellow passengers prepared to shout
into the waves and laughed at words they’d say.
Inside the cave their words echoed about
but words were only breath and spray that day
and so my clarinet rolled low notes out,

from bottom E, rolled all its low notes out,
then sang high C. You packed your flute away
its sweet notes slipping through the silent shout
of sea-within-without. What could we say
as we two walked about it and about
and out into the light that shines the day?

Do you have tutes today? Do you walk out
where dons weigh up each peel of bells that shout?
What do they say about it and about?

Julie Boden

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