We scrabble over wild-flower meadow
spear-thistle, tormentil, harebell
sink into Peploe’s beach
the white strand of the monks
savour sun set over Staffa
volcanic columns slowly melt
and someone stands motionless in the ocean.
John’s black sheep gather
woollen blankets organic mutton
glower at us through gloaming.
We share whisky nipped from the bottle
Dalwhinnie winter’s gold
trip over an orca skeleton
like the frame-work of a ship-wreck
cradled by pearl-white ice-age sands
wrapped in russet bladder-wrack
sheltered by torridonian stone.
It demands discussion.
And we babble, like a brook over boulders
with three other drifters
before sauntering back through violet silence
by way of Cnoc Buie – the yellow hill.
takes me round the slumbering garden
talks peonies dahlias clematis azalias
none of them in bloom
despairs his dug out roses
attacked by bootlace fungus
his Silver Jubilees Elizabeth of Glamis
he rests against a rust encrusted straining post
explains the ways it once was used
to tighten fencing wire to take the weight of cows
reminisces vintage rakes and hoes
much better made than those they sell today
taunts with swathes of daffodils and bluebells
as we crunch kick beech nuts
stroll the blossomless cherry walk
scan the bottom of Jenny’s pond for dozy fish
wish the Spanish chestnut had been Mary Queen of Scots’
not short by 50 years
we meander where an orchard once sprang plums and pears
mourn the 12 apostles some succumbed to wind and honey fungus
I yen for yellow orange pink
spy only umber madder sap green brown
until he offers treasures from his January garden
purple red beetroot brussels
beans neeps leeks kale chard &
arms abundant with luscious colour
at last the first white snow drops
Full bellies revealed
harbor seals relax
while CalMac ferries criss-cross
Iona – Mull – Iona.
Our wooden vessel skims
Ulva, Fladda, Gometra &
the Dutchman’s cap.
Suddenly, the great face of Staffa.
Clamshell, Cormorant, Boat & Goat
caves, crafted by rain and sea, astonish.
But I have come for Fingals, ribs
created from tuff and basalt,
waves performing Mendelssohn’s overture.
Imagine if Antrim’s causeway ended here?
Before Scottish giant Benandonner,
for fear of defeat by Irish giant Finn MacCool,
unaware of deceit by Finn’s wife Oonagh,
destroyed it. Separating, for ever,
Scotland from Ulster.
ON MY WALK AROUND THE BLOCK TODAY
I talk with my old pal Paul by phone
pass impressive poppies
bold brassy brimming with enthusiasm
not red remembrance
not yellow Californian
or blue Himalayan
not white Icelandic
but black & white &
I can’t help but think of that night
we spent in A & E
David screaming with pain
begging for morphine &
those patches I applied each day
to Kitty in those final weeks
a pity these opiates came so late
her night time cries hard to forget
but as I stop to admire these simple flowers
clumped together in a cluster of euphoria
I am glad that they brought them both relief
Kay Ritchie grew up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, lived in London, Spain, and Portugal, worked as a photographer and radio producer, and now enjoys writing and walking. She has been published in magazines and anthologies and has performed at various events.