Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 149: Hoy, Orkney

Easter at the Dwarfie Stane

I know an old man who lay
for three days and three nights
in the three chambered cairn of his mind.

Antler hands had hewn and rough hewn
until his skull was smooth and echoed
with the curlew wind that curled and wound
down the corrie, around the cliffs,
to roll the heather in purple waves
breaking against his brows.

In his tangled beard a lapwing cradled her eggs,
hares rolled like mops of March herring
among the panic-merchant oyster catchers
and liquid skylarks drew sound-spirals
threading his memories onto whirlpools
of the endless wind.

Great blocks of silence stood
like sandstone on sandstone
glowing in the nightly nuclear holocaust,
where gulls, black backed, black headed and common,
spun to the rhythm of dreams
drummed by the tribes of his children,

of nine lives lost
that rattle now as dust-bones in the mist.

That cairn is empty now,
that great stone, rolled downhill by tides,
lies boulder on boulder, smooth among the kelp.
Fulmars descend angelic to the weeping sea
and announce he is risen, that old man
standing tall among the spray.


Peter Cawston

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