Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 22: Camusdarach, Morar

Next Bay North

I am haunted by my memories of this coast
of myself and my brothers
three awkward adolescents marching north
through intermittent rain and dismal skies
looking for a beach we never quite got to.

Somewhere there’s a photograph
the last headland before we gave up
a distinctive Scots Pine gesturing above rocks
and today thirty years later
I bask on the other side of that
on an exquisite sunlit beach
with the woman I love and other blessings.

I recognise the scene in reverse, that headland
but that tree is dead now, somehow symbolic.
We were nearly there, only will and hope failed us.

It’s like being dead, this looking back thing
parallel, external to, one’s own existence.
I’d like to postulate a next bay north
of course. I’ve checked the map but found
the tides too high the rocks too sharp
to let me penetrate its secrets.

Let us believe that its views are better
its sunlight yet stronger to burnish
these frail bodies into gold.
But that dead tree troubles me
Its writhing bone-white branches
a warning that something will be lost.
My brothers and I can’t look each other in the eye
these days, the wretches time has made us.

The trick in looking forward is to see more deeply
the past the future all too quickly will become
and reach that tree before it dies and taste its fruit
the present waiting to be won.

Douglas Thompson

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