He stopped to step around something he could not miss,
the ruffled disc of colour, an orange pool,
red soil and water, bleeding through the path,
the torniquet around the island’s fragile neck
from lost Tarbert to the sea.
A pale sun warmed his stare
over glassy water, silver and grey,
and an arc of black rocks, as if fire had razed the bay.
And he loved her now as he had back then,
before what they found had been mislaid.
He struggled, shredded, over wild rocks
and sharp inlets to the closed bothy door.
Two women, home for a week, warned him away
out into the wild of the west, disconsolate.
A frigid night, a stone sky and a granite floor.
Cold beans, hard breath and a crimson morning land,
the strait ahead, as flat and sharp as a peeled tin lid
rolled back, a fume of salt and loss
and the distance to Islay
wide as the breadth between stone stars.
In the wind at Ardlussa, the car shook in the storm
and coins broke in the red telephone box.
A soft murmuring radio,
and in the morning, the chime of frost,
A rusty island, the exhaust and the cost.
Wild goats, stinking and pie-eyed, snuffled at the tyres
near the standing stone, the frozen pillar of sky.
And the red grass, the red bleeding hills
bled on the redhead island in the copper sea.
And the head in the hood was cold, damp, and free.
Philip Miller is a journalist, writer and poet who lives and works in Glasgow. His short stories and poems have been or are to be published in Gutter magazine, Structo, Valve Journal, the Fish Anthology 2014, The Island Review, The Herald and the Head On art project. His debut novel The Blue Horse will be published by Freight Books in March 2015.