Lament for a Lewis Crofter­Man – Mike Bannister

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
             drives deep.

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




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