Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 391

The Dweller and the Guest

There is no wildlife here, he says.
It is a barren landscape.
A word he has carried
from a distant classroom
along with crevasse,
moraine, erratic.

I turn to the mountains
with a stranger’s eyes,
beseeching a display.
But the cloud is moody, low and grey.
Our beloved Cairngorms
are not on form today.

Are the ptarmigan shy among the rocks?
Have the snow hare melded into moss?
The song of the ring ouzel,
conspicuous in silence.
No snow bunting, no dotterel,
no lime-spattered lichen.

My guest takes pity on me.
We have deer on our city lawns,
he confides. Rabbits, foxes,
badgers, voles. Then he goes
in search of carrot cake
and bacon rolls.

Alone now with the chairlift.
Dormant towers looming
from the mist. The snow plough,
fences, discarded wire. Somehow,
this abandoned playground
had made of me a liar.

But then the Shelter Stone leaned
a roar into the deep of A’an,
where shadows of Macdui rose
to take the soul and shape
of one grey man. And when
the Coires’ shoulders shook
alive, an angry avalanche
of rock came vaulting down.
I called back my guest. Too late.
He had already left for town.

Karen Hodgson Pryce

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