2020 Crabbe Poetry Competition – 3rd Prize
Adjudicator: Martin Figura
(i.m. Kenny Kennedy of Orasaigh 1943-2016)
Further… as far as… back of the north wind
we hanker after recollection’s warp,
where the last crags tumble, chill dark
and terrible to the underworld.
Prince, whaleman and weaver, lone voyager,
we came to rediscover you.
Malin to Fair Isle: twelve windless days,
all mute, no shout carries, no echo tells;
the sharp steel barb of that, salt rust and sore
Unrippling, at Orasaigh waves gleam
green and silver, mirror those mornings
we’d put out on the ebb tide, trusting
the flood to bring us home, lines coiled, fish box full.
You taught us the sea; hidden skerries
lee shore, whistling squalls, a cable parted,
a readiness for danger.
Lifelog of a crofterman: Handsome youth
quits the Long Isle, earns his spurs
where the whalefish blow, about the Weddell Sea;
then he’s a tankerhand
Thames Humber Tyne and Forth.
In the high woods of Moray, he finds his own
pearl beyond price, brings her home,
builds a small Ithaca, clear spring, rough land
dry boat, iron loom; they work, weave tweed,
raise a constellation of four lambent stars.
Restless, down all the seasons and the years,
our quiet Odysseus, is busy at the brim
of the sea, a godly man, each repeated
labour a ritual in itself, a prayer almost;
fish of the tide, cloth of the loom
peat of the moor, stag from the hill.
Sage thoughts, uttered in the old tongue,
soft and slow; he would provide.
Boatman, friend, hero and hunter, sleep sound
in your dark school among the stones
of Gravir, place of kings.
Copyright © Mike Bannister 2020