Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 329

Cry of the Celts

In the pinch of a late winter
that should have flown north by now
to leave a southern spring,
she moves down Sauchiehall:
then sideways into snarling alleyways
& slipshod streets.

A piper in full Highland dress,
his cheeks florid, cap askew,
scarlet tartans flapping
in the skirling wind
plays “Flowers of the Forest”,
“The Water Is Wide”—O Waly, Waly!

She listens inside her hands & feet
& deep in her breastbone:
so many fluttering pennants of liquid song
rolling & unscrolling in thin rivulets & tendrils
to inundate her heart,
ensnare her soul.

His music blindfolds her to shoppers, cars
& blathering shop windows; so now through muffling tears
she hears instead only the blood-red-curdling
ribbon uncurling melody swirling
scalding purple stain
from lost ancestral glens & crags.

The plaint & wail of pipes pours out,
overflows the heather air;
then raises her, sweeps her
over paving stones,
lifts her, free of weeping,
light as dancing, to float forever away.

Lizzie Ballagher

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