Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no 300

The Chimney Sweeper

We pause on our midsummer hike.
This wee black moth offers a shade,
a smudge of soot in the shifting sunlight
beside the Old Military Road.
He rests in shivering grasses
matt charcoal on a shiny stem,
wings fringed with a thin dusting of ash.
And now, quick shimmy of taffeta, he’s off
to perform a delicate strathspey,
his evening dress, like some black-coated Goth,
discordantly elegant on the bleak moor.

Were you dancing then, Chimney Sweeper,
when Caulfeild’s men smashed stones
to build this road, and redcoats marched
to break the Highlands,
or when the bonnie prince rode by
to Inverlaidnan house, that’s now a ruin?
Did they pause on this track, those violent men,
spotting the smoky blackness of your wings,
your small, uncanny shadow on the grass
and, like us, more pensively
continue on their way? 

Sheila Lockhart

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