Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 393

On Gillies Hill

More than familiar ties
attract me to this crag.
Ancestral voices drag me back.
I face far more
than four encompassed points
from this high wooded cliff.


The chequered spaces of the farmed carse
stretch south, snaked through
by ribboned windings of the Forth;
and, to the north,
flows to the feet of far, known mountain peaks:
Ben Vorlich, Ben Venue, Ben Ledi.

Remnants of small volcanoes -
fire and brimstone -
heap the river plain, now here, now there,
with leafy, ancient evidence:
Craigforth, the Wallace Monument, King's Park.

Brown velvet moorland, sewn with sheep,
slopes up towards the west.
Dark eastern ramparts of the Ochil Hills
protect the downward glaciated line
of Castle Rock and town.


Memory looks down
whenever I come home to this known ledge.
It walks each time along the ridge,
stalks soft across the upland heathered fields,
marches away, beyond the silhouetted blue horizoned edge
of the child's vision;
watches, in the deep doved woods, the wee girl -
drowned in lipstick, high heels, Sunday hat -
listens to her tap-dance singing
on the big stage stone,
to an audience of trees;
lies, easeful, in the yellow grain below,
with the first sharp sweetnesses
of love,
all through a long, slow,
summer afternoon.


But there's a deeper tune.
Chords resound far, far beneath
self-generated echoes.

Sheathed in the earth, the woven fabric
is stretched paper-thin.
Within the second of an eyelid opening, closing,
the outward skin drops, layer by layer,
exposing more, and more.

High, ritual platforms, lashed among the pines,
flash on an atavistic, primal wing,
sway once upon the wind and disappear.

Time slips, uncertain, falls:
races, without hour, or day or year,
calls along channels present, future, past,
and fades in the soundless corridors of space.

In this place, life maps - charts of souls -
are, in the end, mere fragments
in the vast depository
of the old world's age;
its story, leafed and bound,
rolled up within the rib bones
of this stone hill vault,
page on unending page.

Irene Paterson Fletcher

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