Here is the 38th poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
Where sky and sea merge
in the grey-hazed horizon
blue sky fragments overhead
play the sea’s mirror sun-driven
as the basking shark circles us
carelessly content in its element
as we are at risk: flotsam
our outboard motor cut to silence
pieces cast on the gods’ chessboard
cruising the stacks and sea caves
domains of birds and fishes
jewel-glowing walls of gold and emerald
revealing nature does not require our audience
nor any, but works its canvas on a scale
stretched beyond our reckoning
and takes our human colour small
among its greater palette, mixes us
or daubs us out not on whimsy
but by necessity: having what we lack;
the wisdom of geologic time; opportunity
to make all mistakes imaginable
arriving only at beauty,
by a final accident.
The motor re-starts, the homeport beckons
taking us from the shark’s circle
shattering the grey mirror
where sky and sea, life and death
met and died and bled
and losing definition, in that second:
-(Lochinver, August 15th, 2004).
This poem is the first of four that I have grouped into a quartet called A Highland Coast Quartet. I was going to keep these back and send them off to New Writing Scotland. But why bother? They hang on to them for 6 months, accept or reject, take another 6 to produce the book, then stop you printing them anywhere else for another 12 months after that. All that for a book that will probably get about 2 reviews if it’s lucky, and your work probably not get mentioned within those. I think I’ll just fire them out across the web instead and maybe get through to a few random people and regulars (hello there, I do notice and appreciate those!) in a format I can control along with some nice visual art. Also, this is instant, and leaves me free to publish all these poems next year in a sequence and in one book of my own that encompasses my entire life’s progress.
I wrote this poem in a place called Clachtoll, a few miles north of Lochinver via some dodgy roads. The owner of the house we were staying in turned up on the first day and kindly took us on a high speed boat trip up and down along coast in both directions. Pretty exhilarating and hair-raising stuff (although I don’t have much hair to raise). If you are reading this, then do please come back for the next 3 weeks to catch other parts of the ‘quartet’. They fit together into one long meditation on time, folk memory and life and death etc, inspired by the wild scenery up in that part of the world.
For paintings, for all of these 4 poems, I’m going to go to Canada rather than Scotland, and use various images by the artists known over there as ‘The Group Of Seven’: Franklin Carmichael (1890–1945), Lawren Harris (1885–1970), A. Y. Jackson (1882–1972), Frank Johnston (1888–1949), Arthur Lismer (1885–1969), J. E. H. MacDonald (1873–1932), and Frederick Varley (1881–1969), A. J. Casson (1898–1992), Edwin Holgate (1892–1977), LeMoine Fitzgerald (1890–1956), Emily Carr (1871–1945). All were inspired by the great Tom Thomson (1877–1917), whose mysterious death seems to have helped turn him into a kind of Van Gogh figure on his home turf.
The choice of Canadian painters rather than Scots ones or even my own photographs of the area, may seem surprising, but in terms of mood and spirit of landscape, the sheer wide open space, I think they might be perfect.
The paintings above are White Pine by A J Casson and West Wind by Tom Thomson.