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smoke screen   fragments 

Tarfessock   (697m)
from sunlight under upturned layers
through vapour     afoot in grass   

turned up     underfoot
a canister shucked from a rucksack   
its shining pin, unloosed     a smoke screen     
                      call it grenade, hand
                      (call it L83A2)

split branches, loosed   (agency, human) 
in this treeless    (call it) training ground
bivouac detritus ditched by squaddies 
erratic        between granite boulders   
                     ice-carried towards us

                     call it brae or rig
                     (call it NX413 888)   

a tumbled wall
above the map's last contour  
clouded-in     780m on Kirriereoch    
                     call it lost     (spot height 786m
                     a pinpoint in a smoke screen)

the descent, a bearing     unsighted 
a broken wall      fence posts (e)merging    
each next (NX414 870)     obliterated    
where iron disintegrates in pooled lead shot

to blocks of forest     a river crossing
(NX388 877)     safe over      (call it safe   
thigh deep in pooling dark)

to take high tea on the high track   
(black with seeded rolls)      (NX388 881) 
rain splintering      quartered
by our headtorch beams     (call it black   
seeded with light   as if through driven snow)

to find the road (un-numbered)      cloudbound
each next diamond to diamond sign 
a lit flare in full beam

 

 

 

 

Timeline with Found Objects
(Three poems from Harrapool, Skye)

i

First or last     conical stacks built upwards   
slabs lifted dried turned dried  
spring to summer repeated

white peat a flare to fire
half-rotted down to earth 
a ground of discoloured stainings   

not sienna nor umber   
the tonal earths of other places
moisture-laden colour of peat 

the blade cuts down through
leaves and roots     float of sphagnum 
interred     anoxic

stacked time
of the peat column's seamless levels
to the treeline

reveals   
what it is we were making of this earth  
climate     tillage     cut back to a spark   

volcanic ash    residues of pollen
the long burn of blue peat  

down to clay     glaciated rock  
what is found there  

                   an acorn's half cup     stained dark
                   knotted bog oak bark
                   sheen of a twig 

                   debris of the treeline
                   fallen back in time 
                   forward into our hands  

 

ii

The croft house   
a space we occupy    
between so many others     arriving 
week by week     year on year
to eat     sleep     be     here and now 
                                                              and then
(our comings and goings
already in our own past)

we are observers of doorframes  
windows on a time    (even our own uncertain)  
through the longitudinal data of history
back to long strip cultivation   
a map survey, 1876         
the croft house here, we think
and its ruined original

but the map offers
no knowledge of who it is we look for
as if we could find them in roof space rafters 
the shape of a window     (the shape
of mouths and of the language forming)
the unverified evidence of our own observation

the language in which we speak of this
a structure both solid and open     known and uncertain  

                   but there in its place
                   framed   a small view of            
                   a mountain   unchanged      

                   in the scale of vision  
                   shifts ceaselessly
                   in cloud and sunlight

 

iii

Why count uncounted shells 
or fossil shells     or the simpler tally 
of beachcombers searching the fossil line
between them time figured in weeks or years 

what is carried away      what remains 
in the soft matrix of siltstone or mudstone   
hard enough      each in its hard niche      

the tidal wash uncovers the friable layers  
a time exposure     like a camera 
(a memory      our fossil photographs)
or the human eye      blinking open

the movement in this is a shell
without propulsion in a drift of silt      without
its soft-bodied creature      its tenacious inhabitant
it is only a house      a husk
laid down and overlaid

a movement of waves against mud    
the push of deep ocean's chargeless turbines
sifting grains      physical and minute

                   compacted beds of fossil oysters   
                   devil's toenails plunged into mud
                   fanned bivalves       scalloplike
                   prized black spirals and their cupped negatives

                   a lightness or weight
                   carried home      
                   to windowsill or boundary wall     

                   my hand lifts and places           


 

 

 

[Gerrie Fellows is a New Zealand-born poet who has lived most of her adult life in Scotland. Her most recent collection is The Body in Space (Shearsman, 2014). Other work includes several book-length sequences, including Window for a Small Blue Child which explores the technology, imagery and experience of fertility treatment, and a prose and poetry sequence, The Powerlines. A new collection, Uncommon Place, poems about Scotland and the nature of place, is forthcoming from Shearsman in 2019.]

Copyright © 2018 by Gerrie Fellows, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.



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