A palimpsest of people’s lives this hilltop is a manuscript great chunks of which have not survived: see, where the earthen banks have slipped.
Then there are lacunae where the ploughman – not unlike a scribe reusing rolls – has brought his share through old work, tossing stones aside.
A fragment, half of which has gone to feed the wind – insatiable and writing its own story on the weathered vellum of the hill.
Even the pollen, buried deep below my feet, has tales to tell – still dreaming, in its wintry sleep of when the ice sheets rose and fell.
A reading knowledge of the land reveals what is recorded here and though it’s hard to understand the underlying sense is clear.
As evening falls, I walk across this written and unwritten ground – my footprints footnotes to its loss: a poem waiting to be found. Seeking
That red kite I saw two days ago from the cottage window feeling its way over a furrow in the wind: I know what it sought in the ebb and flow of air, in every undertow and updraft – ready to throw the rough pasture below where a mouse might burrow towards its talons. Let me show you something else: a cloud’s slow progress, swaddling the snow capped Cairngorms, which grow as the rain falls back. Rimbaud would have found both E and O in such a prospect – the stark glow of the peaks, wrapped in their indigo grey shawls – and A in a crow as it swithers to and fro before setting down, with no less grace than a noh artiste, on a fencepost. So the hand, finding a radio station, lets the dial go. The Gled
Watching a red kite carrying the weather’s weight in its russet tail feathers, I’m minded of the gled in Henryson’s fable, folding itself out of the wind, while the field mouse put there to symbolise what virtues we might waste, struggles to swim against the current of this world’s water, dragged down by the sinful puddock – wallowing deeper while the waving corn on the opposite bank, betokening heaven, shines its unreachable yellow shine.
The gled’s our end, descending from an emptied sky to snatch the field mouse and the puddock up – no doubt the poet had seen hawks hunting often enough to know their deadly meaning for such small creatures, scurrying from furrow to furrow, always half-aware of something stirring in the trackless openness beyond the ploughed land; hovering in the air just out of eye’s reach, terrifyingly intimate; carrying the climate on its russet tail.
Stewart Sanderson is a poet from Glasgow, recently translated to the West Midlands. His work has been recognised by a number of prizes, including an Eric Gregory Award, as well as Robert Louis Stevenson and Jessie Kesson Fellowships. His most recent pamphlet is An Offering (Tapsalteerie, 2018)