I’ll take you. The metalled track
for the ones who cull the deer,
or the way from the watershed
by the line of pylons, the swatch of green bracken,
the tumble of mossed field walls
sinking back into the hill.
Roofless and unglazed, that first house
in its neat walled sheep park,
the lochan glinting in a shallow sun.
Rhum at anchor on the rim of the west.
A small boat beating into the swell.
Bird-bright ancient woods over the ford.
Oak and holly. Rowans. Fern and briar.
Underfoot a mulch, a bog of leaves,
but the way well-found to its edge,
and the thinnest of land. Outcrop quartz,
brown reeds, cottongrass.
And here, at the scrawl of bladderwrack,
a single croft as bare as a winter ash,
corrugated tin roof rusting, grey walls
algae-streaked black and poison-green.
A trodden pock-marked floor of earth.
Wet, clotted ashes in the hearth. A broken crate.
Think of a pitched slate roof, neat dormers.
Peat reek from a chimney at each gable end.
A daffodil sun in a blue blue sky.
Three birds like punctuation marks. A red door.
Curtains in the windows either side.
The crayoned house of every child who ever drew a house.
A good place to wait out a squall that blows in off the sea.
Ah yes. Well, Lachlan that was my uncle.
He was born in there. Yon house. Says Effie.
Oh, but it was years ago.
The bracken flat from the wind
and the snow come from the west;
that boat bucking the wide loch’s swell and chop.
The gleam of outcrop quartz,
the stumps in an old jaw tired of chewing
the cud of weather and time; tired of wind.
The hum of the strung fence;
the soft wet glottals of snowmelt becks
in the clutter of tumbled gullies.
The nameless plants of sour land,
all ruby, emerald and rust,
that nothing can live on but spiders.
The soft gleam of sand
where seals used to lie,
where coral and memory crumble.
A flicker of white water on the burn
below the alders where the heron roosts
A flirt of dunnock in the short grass
that sets the sheep trotting
Rain dragging its skirts
across the skerries in the ebb
Right on the rim of the moor
three hinds, watching
A curl of bluegrey turf smoke
from the red-roofed croft
I keep it like this.
The heron just crumpling
into the alders,
like a broken kite
the deer watching
between the moor and the sky
small birds lifting from the field
like the hem of a skirt in a breeze
the lamentations of sheep
the bright red tin roof of a crofter’s house
John Foggin has had poems published in The North, The Interpreter’s House and Prole. He was one of the winners of this year's Poetry Business Pamphlet competition and won first prizes in the Plough (2013, 2014) the Camden/Lumen (2013) competitions; second places in the Ilkley Literature Festival competition (2014) and the Poetry Business Yorkshire Prize (2015), and was highly commended in the Forward Prize (2014) and the Rialto/RSPB (2015). He has published two pamphlets, Running out of space and Backtracks, and a chapbook entitled Larach.
Photograph by Oliver Clarke, used under a CC 2.0 license.