Poetry Map of Scotland: Poem no 295

Dun a Mhuirich [An Excerpt] 
Upon visiting an excavation

Where did you come from, and how many?
Were you invaders or settlers?
Creeping up the loch in your stout leather boats,
Seeking safety, security in an unknown land.
Or looking to plunder and kill?
So you landed here, here where an outcrop of limestone
Made an easily defended position, sheer sided to the sea, steep to the landward side.
So you settle and defy anyone to move you on.

And a seagull cries.
The chink and clink of a trowel echoes off the hillside as it scrapes away at your stones and your bones.

Or did you come from out of the forest?
Moving restlessly on, looking for just the right place,
You’ll know it when you see it;
Driving your beasts, up at night guarding against wolves.
How unsafe you must have felt,
How exposed, as you forged on into the unknown;
Then, there, rising up beside the sea, a great thrusting rock, home.

And a seagull cries.
The chink and clink of a trowel echoes off the hillside as it scrapes away at your stones and your bones.

Then what? And how? And why?
We know where, we are looking at it now,
Asleep for hundreds of years, your place of safety,
Your fortress, it is being scrutinised,
Your every activity considered, your diet discussed,
Are your ears burning? Up there, out there.
We’ve answered what, a place of safety,
The how is something else.
When did you the boat people or you the travellers
Decide to build your walls?
Did someone want what you had?
Was this your ‘No! Bugger off, it’s mine’ statement?

And a seagull cries.
The chink and clink of a trowel echoes off the hillside as it scrapes away at your stones and your bones.

Did you start with stones from the shore?
Surely the easiest and quickest,
Hauling them up to the top in skin slings.
Was it enough? Did ambition call for more stone?
Did you quest along the shore?
Float them back on rafts?
So much easier than all that effortful humping along the beach,
With all the women as well, children snivelling, wanting to play.
Everyone carrying their manageable bit of safety.

And a seagull cries.
The chink and clink of a trowel echoes off the hillside as it scrapes away at your stones and your bones.

Would you have, could you have lived up there?
There is no water, so yet more effort to fill skin bags and heave them to the top.
You would only want to do it in an emergency,
Raiders heading up the loch, or tramping through the forest,
Fleeing up your hill to safety at the alarm.
Someone’s job to check the supplies for just such an event,
A not so able elder perhaps, needing to take their time.

And a seagull cries.
The chink and clink of a trowel echoes off the hillside as it scrapes away at your stones and your bones.

Where have you gone? Did you all die?
Drinking foul water? Disease? Killed by intruders?
Just fed up and moving on?
No trace now, or if so, yet to be found,
And people are looking, diligently and persistently looking,
They will find you if you are to be found.
They will breathe new life into your existence.
Destroy your privacy; show you to the gawping curious,
But you will have the last laugh,
You will always know, but they have only conjecture,
You left so very thoroughly, no whisper upon the breeze,
No scent upon the hearth. Grass to grass, rushes to rushes.

And a seagull cries.
The chink and clink of a trowel echoes off the hillside as it scrapes away at your stones and your bones.

Alexander Hamilton 

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