Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no 284

Tiree: Ringing Stone

Boldly across the machair, springy underfoot,
then field gates to open, bolts icy in the wind,
or stringed shut with obscure knots; one
with twisted wire too stiff for fingers, climbed.
When I asked at the farm they said
‘It looks like nothing else around‘.

Past a small wind turbine silver-snipping
obsessively at a water-colour sky,
starlings rise from the marsh-grass,
skimming as a collective mind
through jostling air, in complex skeins
confusing as the path I try to find.

Following the sea-edge, fractal, fractured
by endless arguments between the waves,
eroding gales, lichens, grasses, sheep.
The path bends in a conjuror’s trick, its
reveal this shoulder-high egg,
skin-smooth, grey, a single heavy thought.

Fingers pulled across its micro-pitted face
read no message in its extra curves:
cupped hollows in the rock, made by
who knows who, once upon a time.
For sacrificial blood, good luck? From boredom,
‘I was here?’ The meaning’s gone.

I take a hand-sized pebble,
strike the surface, magic out a mellow note,
hanging in the air. Within its ‘clung’
the absent glacier groans,
this ringing stone polished and dropped,
to lie until the ice returns.

Ruth Aylett

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