The Scale of Things
There’s a whole country at the foot of the stone If you care to look These are the stones we have instead of trees In the north. Our trees all got lost, Blown over or cut down Long long ago, and some of them lie there still in the peat moss Or fossilized in limestone. At the shady foot of trees Certain things grow, But at the foot of stone grow the sun-loving wind–resisting short plants With very small bright flowers And compact, precise leaves. The wind whips the tight stems into a vibration, But they don’t break. The full light of the sun reaches right down to the ground, And reflects obliquely and sideways in among and under the snug leaves, And settles on the stone too, Makes a glow there, A sufficient warmth and clarified light. The stunning frequencies seem to get absorbed And if you stare closely at the stone It’s a calm light, not too blue, Precisely indicating its variegated surface. The great stone stands, On a different scale, in a way, from the minute plants at its base. A proliferating green lichen Grows on it As well as round golden coin-patches of another common lichen, And only in the earth right up to the very stone but not on it Grow the crisp grass And all the tiny plants and flowers Which, together interlaced and inter-related, Make the fine springing turf which people and animals walk on.
Margaret Tait was one of Britain's most unique and individual film makers. She produced over 30 films, including one feature, Blue Black Permanent (1992), and Hugh MacDiarmid: A Portrait. She described her films as 'film poems'. She also published three books of poetry, origins and elements (1959), The Hen and the Bees: Legends and Lyrics (1960), and Subjects and Sequences (1960).Read more about this poet
About this poem
Listen to Margaret Tait reading this poem on the Carcanet Press website.