The Highest Point
Above beach, waves, the whole of Coll,
I feign pushing the huge boulder
and my family – wife, both sons – all
lay hands, brace legs, dip shoulders,
but it rests still on those three wee
stones and twenty thousand years.
As we concede defeat to the erratic,
The Queen’s Stone, Clagh-na-Ban-righ,
a rainbow appears, freed from pandemic
windows, to paint the Hebridean sky.
Step away. The path has left me.
Last night’s storm has scattered debris
so these familiar ways are strange,
the way veiled by fallen branches.
Soft underfoot, thick with strewn needles.
Vertical is now horizontal.
Great pines unanchored, exposed roots
like the matted fur of bigfoot.
Heartwood flesh exposed in white shards.
Wind discarded, the grammar
of wood is lost. Boughs groaning,
trees caught falling. Carelessly strewn,
lie leaves thick. Syntax gone, storm-blown.
Broken birches, ancient native.
Did they fall as one, collective
death, like the rock-crushed bob of seals
at St Abbs? Stumble. Feet feel
unsteady. Don’t walk; climb, scramble,
inch forward, sidestep, foot back until
the ground below is steady. Cones
litter the floor. Branches like bones
clinging still to tendon, sinew.
Wingless seeds, lie flat on soil too
cold, too hard. Yesterday’s rules
tossed away, fruitless, futile.
What remains, after the storm?
Words that described storms for ages,
are leaves unhooked from old, dry pages:
rattle-showers, head-smite, cheek-crack, blow;
ghost-driven, cloud-loose leaves lie cold, low.
Unworthy words will wither,
fester, moulder. But this litter
might yet feed some detrivore,
let one small new shoot grow,
like the gnarled, italicised
rowan that clings to the hill, thrives
imperative. We survive.