3rd July

carrying washing upstairs, the clouds scudding white through the skylight

working from home the way the steam swirls above the soup pan

half sunny evening the traces of slats of the blind on the ceiling

grabbing a knife for lunch a splash of silver light in the cutlery drawer

summer dusklight at eleven, the green glow of my battery charger

rinsing raspberries my fingers the colour of my mother’s memory

2nd July

Sunday morning falling sunlight through the slats in next door’s fence

Raindrops on the pink plastic clothes pegs, rocking in the breeze

First cup of tea of the morning: two bubbles circle the cup

Approaching the no speed limit sign the flick of a swallow’s tail

Bringing washing in from the rain, the squawk of young jackdaws

Patterns of light on the cat on my shoulder, I watch his breath

1st July

As the early morning ferry approaches the mainland: a sliver of light on the blue-black water

Wiping morning damp from the wing mirror, a tiny curled up spider

Heavy grey-sky morning: the brightness of the green where the sun hits the hill

Leaving early for the ferry, a patch of hillside in the mirror of the sea stops me still

A week without seeing the cats, the length of their whiskers

Long slow straggle of cars behind a caravan, the way the light moves over the hill

Metallic (a word sketch)

low on the water, a sea bird curves and turns
shore lapping the sound of
deeper water dark bobbing with black
low flight and cry
as it circles and lands
sheen of metallic blue
the underwings of a gull
all blue – the forth and sky –
cold light rolling
patterns of light on the water
a curlew cries
oystercatchers in a line
sky and river horizon
low the flick of wings
not touching the water

Return Crossing

red fishing boat
snow on the Cuillin

No tea room, but the hum of conversation of men in the back, their jackets luminous, waiting on the ferry. A line of gulls on the harbour wall, and one high above, circling. An engine hums. Diesel drifts across the stillness, a chain turning as the crane lifts and lowers, the trundle of a coach down the hill.

A fishing boat chugs into harbour, rippling.

Across the water, the ferry starts its return, snow still on the peaks, and the distant keening of gulls.

Mallaig, May 2014

Lunchtime Rush

Light on the street puddles,
Silver glinting on upturned aluminium.

A man in a wheelchair pushed by his wife
Points with his stick, leading:

Three oversized and dressed in grey and in a line together
Then one pink one purple
Hair permed in conversation
and hands in pocket bounce of kids
row of six eating pizza
laughing heads back free
as his bald head down to steady
slow the push against the wind,
a paper bag, blowing.

A man walks past
with feathers in his hat,
like a soldier,
from another time.

Three shadows talk the corner.
A young man bends to light a cigarette,
fluid, slow – a dance.

Then two hand in hand
And two walking sticks
Slowly one and then the other
And she shaking wired as she clutches at the phone
And he counting pennies,
Looking careful at his hand,
Like a soldier,
From another time.

Two old sticks.
A purple rain cap.
The street sweeper jacket bright.
All like a dance.

Sweeping the Streets

blowing smoke into the cold morning
silently the street sweeper
stooped with a cap and she moving slowly
phone to her ear and lips on a cigarette
the cart of
bus spewing passengers
her hair dyed maroon

shards of broken glass and stubs of cigarettes
the cart on the cobbles and a dog pulls the lead
a pair of brown shoes marching past
and the cart on the cobbles
a seagull in the pale blue sky and
three pigeons on the chimney
above Poundstretchers.

she sits, waiting,
and a sign don’t feed the gulls.
two pairs of women’s red shoes,
walking in rhythm,
the wings of a seagull.
schoolkids shuffle in big coats, laughing,
the paws of a dog on the stone.

The Big Sleep (A Sketch)

she curls the ends of her hair
in her mouth
what are you, a prize fighter?

nothing but a tartan blanket
in a wheelchair

I like to see people drink
rotten sweetness –
not much to tell.

cuffs rolled up

the light in the old man’s eyes –
that was what hurt.
next time I’ll come on stilts.

thumbs on the brandy glass,
just what is it you’re afraid of?

an erratum on page one sixteen

umbrellas past the window
she unclasps her hair

(sketch notes from ten minutes watching The Big Sleep)

Looking for the Grave of Compton Mackenzie

The long grass is soaking between the graves at Cille Bharra. A late spring, only the yellow of primroses on the slopes above the cemetery and dotted gaily round the stones. We move slowly, reading dates and names.

In the centre of the graveyard: three tiny chapels. Bending low into the doorway, a single light illuminates the rough hewn walls. Rain squalls outside, a battery of wind – the distant sound of chanted prayer, and still the touch of water, pooled in the curve of a stone.

Blinking back into the light, we find his grave. I had thought it would be more: some lines about his work, or the stories, a plaque perhaps to that Whisky Galore! but after all it’s only this – a name, and dates: the beginning, and the end.

on a wild primrose
– this stranger’s grave

blowing over
the rasping of a corncrake
after the rain

The writer Sir Compton Mackenzie, author of many books including Whisky Galore (the inspiration for the much loved film of the same name) is buried in Barra, the island that he took as his home for many years. His gravestone is in the ancient churchyard at Cille Bharra, near Eoligarry, in the north end of the island, one of the few places in the UK where you can still hear a corncrake.