Across the bay, they’re building a house
with a glass wall, panes all the way up
into the gable, windows that wrap
around corners for a view as wide
as sea and sky, to take in Sumburgh Head,
Auriga, every passing vessel
and pod of orca, storm-force gales,
anvil clouds, the cliffs of Levenwick,
the waxing moon lighting a track
clear to Fair Isle. This huge eye,
lidless, unfillable, as hungry
for every last object it can rest on
as if it were mortal, knowing how soon
light goes by; how little time it has.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2012. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editors in 2012 were Zoë Strachan and Louise Welsh.
Clean images, as crisp as the scene they describe, transform as the poem progresses. The familiar becomes strange, the smart architect-designed house becomes an eye, and with another shift in the final stanza we learn that its ‘unfillable’ hunger is driven by a human apprehension of time passing.
‘The Eye’ is based on a house in Cullister, Shetland, near the village where we live. I don’t know anything about it or the people who live there, but it has this enormous window taking up a whole wall and facing south over the sea.