Tarred roads, metal cattle-grids and wheel tracks mesh
so tightly no land can escape. Tractor ruts
cut deep into the grass to cross and double-stitch
the fields together. Where the high ground pushes upwards,
pylons rigid with electricity stand guard
upon the hills. Bridges staple running water,
lines of fence-posts nail the valley sides in place.
Rain and ploughed mud. Rooks’ cries claw the air,
a banshee trapped in corrugated iron shrieks
to be released. Trees grasp at nothing,
and let go. It is a scene a child has painted,
splashing colours on sodden paper:
his carelessness might tear a mountainside apart.
Shingle being ground to nothing on the river-bed,
the clouds’ silence soaking into the hills –
these are secrets I dare not tell
even to myself. They give weight
to every moment of my life.
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.
The Scottish landscapes most often celebrated are the wilds. But it’s the intensely – even industrially – farmed areas that have soaked into the Scottish soul.
Though born in Edinburgh, I spent much of my twenties and thirties drifting here and there across the globe, all very pleasurably. It wasn’t until I stood in the Calvinist grip of a Scottish winter’s afternoon that I at last accepted my Scottishness. Since then I have rejoiced in it!