Three Poems

For the Scots originals, please click here.


Hawk Stones


watching the procession to open Scotland's parliament
ceased 25 March 1707 resurrected 1 July 1999



there is no stone where the hawk soars,
no hawk where the stones stand


nor at their cobbled feet, no king
to reign his wide high street


where only rain crowns a castle-hill
no burning women wish they'd drowned


and the shuttered shops can sell no cloth
while no tea or snuff is taken there


as no gill bell rings this meridian
nearly three hundred years are turned around


on a spiral stair. Edinburgh sings
an old song to a newborn tune, and a star


is lit where stone mounts dust
to raise us up where the hawk can soar.


With These Rings


You are fresh words
on the old stone of time.


Here, silence honors you,
here now, the earth turns,
the sun beats, the rain sings.


You are not adrift
among the wheeling constellations
but held by the hoop of love.


Ancient as the ring of standing stones,
prophetic as a snow-ring round the moon,
marriage is.


Wear your vows well when laughter
is the wine between you


or when night lies like a bolster
down the middle of your bed.


May the cold shoulder of the hill
always afford you shelter.
May the sun always seek you
however dark the place.


We who are wordless know
thorns have roses.


And when you go from this day
the burnished stars go with you.


When you go forward from this day,
the love that grew you
grows with you


and marriage is struck,
iron on stone, hand in hand.


scotland


she is a harsh mother,
arthritic with hills and crags
cut deeper than crow's feet.


her face is lined with ravines
her voice the roar of spume
on broken brown-toothed rock.


she passes boulders off as breasts,
belts her waist with an industrious past,
in her arms, she gathers firs


a grey and grizzled warrior, she is
bordered by ample hips, her tongue
a lash of thunderous voltage.


no season softens her, she drags
her children up on gorse and whin,
winters them without kindness.


she fires the hearth with ice or hail,
expects snow to pass for gentleness.
spring girdles her old in green.


if she holds you to her rugged breast
it is to pour the white-water scorn
of mountains on your head.


when she croons, she throws up seagulls.
sleeping, she drags a lumpen pillow
over the moon, punches out a few stars.


she'll turn your dreams to Scotch mist,
bone comb your hair with tugging wind
scrub your faces with rain.


in your mouth she lodges a language
no one speaks, in your heart a stone.
but if you go from her


a wild song and dance will follow
to bind you forever son or daughter,
make you sick for home.