Poetry: The Stag/A Raw Wind on Iona/Surgery

Published in Dreich Chapbook#5 Animals


The Stag


The sea-loch is kicked bright by white horses. On the hill a stag nibbles at bog myrtle buds. It’s January and he’s been struggling for months. He’s been watched since the bracken began to lean over. His lameness and sharp-hipped aloneness have been noted. He’s been willed to recover, even had a feed block left out for him. But today he is seen shivering in the sleet, his two-toed hooves weighing him in between tussocks of gold Molinia, hind quarters tucked and trembling. More harsh weather on the way. Later, when he is lying curled in half like a calf amongst the birch trees, he is shot. A woodcock flights the shock. The deer stalker lays his blade against one open and glazing eye, just to make sure. He snaps off a birch branch from overhead, places it across the deer, leaves him there for the eagles and foxes to strip back to sheer bone. 


Soon the whole naked breadth of his rib cage is seen mooning beneath the maroon crown of downy birches. No recovery for the stag, but return and renewal, yes: in lustful eagles tumbling the pitch of the sky; in a redmost fox scraping her den; in birch-bark blooming carmine where lenticels spill the silver apart; in subterranean urges as tree roots nose for nutrients under rain running off a stag’s silken bones, and bracken readies to furl up through the beloved unsprung last of him.



A Raw Wind on Iona


Through the window a flock 

of peat-woolled Hebrideans

grazes above a tangled teal sea.

Unhurried horns all face North.


I step outside the hostel to find a day 

that has gaeled the birds away,

a morning to fold into, and over, 

with all the heart-heft I can muster.




You breathe in the hog weed and sweetness of bee-bread

re-set on Tiree, you say, just loud enough to hear


Arctic terns serrate the air overhead

you know this time is different


that this re-set will need a surgical blade, or a catastrophe

to extract the longing coiled in your right shoulder


a hold of steel, tightening its grip

from scapula to base of brain


blue-kieled shoulders of ewes

shudder you with softness


so when you see the road-kill hare

on the bend by Hynish


your tears are already there

ready to drop, one by one towards her touching paws


into that perfect heart-shape of tarmac between her knees

onto her spine made bare by sun and tyres and crows.


What would you see

if it was yourself there on the road?


Would that taut yearning have already  

slipped away from your smashed body


have scattered the sanderling

as it made its way towards a slack tide


have disappeared into a star-struck sea 

during that tiny lull in the blackbird’s song


leaving behind only brittling bone

and blood roaming to dust


remnants of a million bright instances 

pressed to the road, staining to rust.