Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 396

Point of Sleat

The hard track starts where the road gives out
by the small white church. It switchbacks to a stop
at the empty crofts, one gull on a smokeless chimney,
the cold inlet of Acairseid an Rubh;
then it’s just a thin meandering path
through whin, bright sphagnum, brown peat and reed
to the lighthouse at the Point, the end
where there is nowhere left to go, but back.

Once, at the gate, there was a horse; it lay
against the wall. It seemed asleep. There were no flies;
finches fussed in the grass. The scale of its head
surprised; a fine fringe of hair on the crimped ear,
the eye wide open, bronze and blue as oil on water;
in this empty place, alive with small birds,
a flirt of primrose in the shattered quartz,
a mystery how its dead weight got here.

Another time, a highland man as big as monuments
strode, he said, to the wedding; dressed to kill
with sgian-dhu, and kilt, and froth of lace
below his beard; fluttering in the breeze
that danced with coming snow, a heather spray
tucked in his bonnet-band. The only guest
we saw all that day on the track down to the Point
where no-one seems to live but gulls and sheep.        

And once, as sleet and random fat white flakes
came down aslant the wind and failing light,
hunkered in the lee of the rock, the highland bull
we didn’t see at first; we heard its snotty breathing,
the shift and scrape of bulk; we felt the warmth
of a flank rough as a pegged rug, sensed the heft
of a blunt head, bright horn. It took no notice. That was it.
Once upon a time. No endings at the Point of Sleat.

John Foggin

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