Outwith Elwick Mill, Shapinsay
i.m. David Holmes, potter. 1944-2015
Outwith the last passing place, where thoughts and distance run out.
Outwith land and home, what went before and what came after.
Outwith land and longing, torn and falling.
Where land becomes ground
and ground is earth and earth
is bisque dust pulled into solid air.
Outwith the bodies of water crossed,
the shroud of murr, the incantation
of ferries that swing to and fro.
Outwith the strum of engines crossing
The String, the Shapinsay Sound
carried on the backs of gulls.
Outwith the pampas grass, gravel path.
The honking geese. The mill, the churn,
the last turn of the key.
The water wheel stilled.
Silence lipperin a paddled heart.
Outwith the terracota girl stood waiting
for fire in her belly, a blush on her cheeks.
Outwith the unfluttered hush, the Japanese fan;
turquoise wing pinned to rough hewn walls.
Outwith the cracked, crackled bowls
of ox blood and flame,
the politeness of bone white teapots.
Outwith a stir of jade; a tatami mat
of flag iris where you sit by a trickle
of tea coloured water, bridging the gap.
Outwith the light left burning.
The deep sleep of cutting machines
and the dreams that grind in paraffin, creosote,
grime, marking time.
Outwith peeling planks, the rusting air vent;
like a medicine wheel, tobacco brown.
Outwith the unknown child, Merlin feathers
piercing the flesh of the old grey mill door
letting you breathe
letting you believe.
Note from the author:
I had the good fortune last summer to go and stay at Elwick Mill on Shapinsay, the former home and workplace of David Holmes, potter. I was able to see some of David's pottery and get a feel for the place he'd lived in and loved. He'd spent many years renovating the mill and getting the water wheel operational again, when unfortunately he became ill and died in 2015. He was a well known and loved character on the island. His pottery workshops and musical get togethers around the outdoor kilns, I believe were legendary.
Marion Oxley lives in West Yorkshire and has been visiting Orkney for the last six years or so. Having been originally drawn to the islands because of the music of the Wrigley sisters and the St. Magnus Festival, she wanted to see and hear the sounds of some of the places they had written tunes about. Her work has been published in a variety of poetry magazines.
Photograph by Owen Robertson, CC 2.0.