At Lewis

I lay on my back
behind the golf-course
in Stornoway,
established town
in the Isle of Lewis,
land of stones,
and as I lay
in the lie of the land
an old dream dreamt me,
deep in the arms
of a sleeping sea-child.

“Dark is the slumber
of the rocks that made me,
mountain of Minch,
slapped for ever
with the sea’s soft fingers
about the crest,
where the seasons increase
and the cold months mourn.
Many have I sheltered,
the slow-worm, the otter,
and none has owned me
that trespass and traipse here,
troublesome people
with their schemes and schedules.
Scoundrels, the lot of them!
But I loved the music
of the moon at Callanish,
the singing stones.
Sadly they buried
by the sea, great ones.
Good was their earth-care!
And the laughing women
from Norway, like water
their hair sang, in waves
like shouts of the sun.
Then the Celts claimed me
of the five clans,
pinned me to Scotland,
made me pretty for maps,
sold me off for a song.
In short shrift indeed
have they dealt with themselves,
these now my dearest,
who take my wool
and fish my waters,
do not question at things,
keep quiet on Sunday.
They have fought over hills
for the finest freedom,
to belong and to be.
I bear them for a time,
uphold their crofts,
half-fill their creels.
But do not forget,
you of the free faith,
forefolk standing
at the Callanish stones,
always remember
Norsemen at the mill.
Tell me, who is more
than a crofting tenant?
I, Isle of Lewis,
sleep-idle, a sea’s-child,
dream this to a visitor.”

I woke: an island’s voice
was in the birds, the wind.
It whispered Gaelic to me
as I went on my way.

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