A fox barks and the door creaks
as though the wood
remembered the tree it once was.
I write this at a kitchen table
in the city, a plane passing
every minute, day and night.
It is time to go north. I want
to listen to silence and unpick its voices:
the wind that surges through pines
is only one of them, with the burn
that gurgles, chants, or roars in spate;
the buzzard mewing, wheeling overhead,
the oyster-catcher piping her way
across moorland, whisper of bog-cotton
surrendering to the wind. At Sanna
the machair will be bright with orchids.
Do you hear a humming, like fridge-song?
An emerald damsel-fly hovers above the burn.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2015. 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 editor in 2015 was Ken MacLeod.
At the beginning we seem to be in the country, but we’re not. Crowe’s mental journey to the north of Scotland is full of vivid, exact evocation of sounds and the scenes they summon, and the return to an industrial, indoor simile at the end brings her back to where she sits, wanting to go.
‘J’ai perdu mon nord. La boussole blanche s’est cassée’ is the first line of a poem in French by Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, one of the three Innu/ French-Canadian poets whose work I and two other Scottish poets had the privilege of responding to, reading with them at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2015.
Natasha’s poetry is melancholy and fierce, with an exile’s longing to be back in her nitassinan, her homeland. Compelled to spend a couple of weeks in hot, noisy London, and reading her poetry collection, N’entre pas dans mon âme dans tes chaussures, I found myself longing to go back north, home to Scotland. An urban fox’s sudden cry had me remembering Ardamurchan, its flowering machair or grassy dunes, where silence is made up of a thousand tiny sounds, wind and its encounters, flowing water’s many voices and, especially, birdsong.