Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 185: Lewis

Lament of a Lewis Chessman

Please spare a thought for us. Our island home
is hidden from each rainbow and its cloud,
but weather-bearers thunder in a game
of chance and skill. Now, be it understood,

these clashes rarely cause alarm. We feel
a sense of isolation in this spot:
our monarchs long to join the rank and file
of elemental rulers. Here we sit

as seasons change, year after year; but note,
we will not fester in an early grave.
The time has come to dream up squares of white
and red, create a land of make-believe.

Berserkers chew their shields while headless pawns
parade as monolithic slabs of stone.
Our pensive queens appear in formal gowns,
while rabbits burrow deep inside the dune

to this forgotten citadel. Proud kings
display their might with strategy and sword.
Let war commence: we belt out battle songs,
prepare for action. Giant people guard

a second universe, where breakers lash
against our walls: we’re cut off from their realm.
Two Nordic knights on chargers start to rush
with spear in hand, then all is deathly calm.

Heroic warders take a well-earned rest:
they banish insects from their pitted skin.
Our sandbank shakes: the tide is turning fast.
Checkmate; but will we see the light again?

Caroline Gill

First published in 'The Holy Place' by John Dotson and Caroline Gill. The Holy Place was published by The Seventh Quarry (Swansea, 2012) in conjunction with Cross-Cultural Communications (New York).

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