From Barcelona’s looping perifèric –
the Ronda del Mig – now empty,
to Ardamurchan’s volcanic ring-dyke,
returning an eagle’s piercing cry;
from Lindores’ limpid lochan
with its vanished fringe of fishermen,
to the wren at the back-door,
in a bowl of water, drinking.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2020. 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 2020 was Janette Ayachi.
When something shrinks, it slowly disappears, oh, even the title is gorgeous! For me, this poem invoked the image of a snowglobe with three sides of the world in its 3D girth, and at the peak; the wren. I was swayed by the clever syntax, the breathable couplets, its success in showing us the shrinking world in the palm of our hands, our wounds. Also by the sense of home being as spiritually grandiose as the open road – but more importantly, the silence, the echo, the absence and the thirst of mankind – what is left when climate change has already warned us of an end? The last hunchback whale yearning for its mate after the last ‘fringe of fisherman line a horizon’, perhaps? This is a poem whose date when written becomes important – poems that are telling of our transformational moments in time. Crowe here is one of the poets at the edge, scoping the periphery for clues, mesmeric with her choice of vision.
As the Covid lockdown strengthened, I had an increasing sense of horizons shrinking. Travel to Europe was banned, so I couldn’t visit my poet friends in Catalonia; a newspaper showed the huge Barcelona ring-road, the perifèric, known as the Ronda del Mig (‘middle ring’), empty. That ring reminded me of another, natural rather than man-made – the volcanic ring-dyke in Ardnamurchan. With travel within Scotland banned, its great spaces were now void of walkers, but restored to its wild inhabitants. When we couldn’t travel more than five miles, the smaller ring of Lindores loch lost its fishermen. In the last couplet, a wren – one of our smallest birds – is drinking from the birds’ water-bowl outside the back-door: I hope readers will imagine the rings it makes in the water travelling outwards to embrace the world. The poem inspired a beautiful work by Stephen Raw, calligrapher and Artist-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral.