Here are a few poems I have written:
In the lost country of our abandoned childhood
There were no worried parents to watch over us,
No rights of way to tell us where to go,
But adventure beckoned and the long day of delight.
We would troop off to the summer meadow
Over the ancient wooden style
And down across the grasses
The sunlight glistening
And all our life a prospect.
As my friends pressed on toward the stream,
Their voices floating dreamily away,
I would lie back and gaze up at the sky
Through the undergrowth of green,
And watch the scudding softness of the clouds
Passing, passing, passing through blue heaven
Heaven of the childhood summer afternoon,
That drifting now, that timeless never ending,
Then stir and wander on alone
The whole field flecked with pretty flowers
Bright shining buttercups and white loveliness
Of little daisies, open and so radiant,
Reflecting the radiance, reflecting prettiness
Of my own childhood, my own open mind,
Before the wind turned cool across my face
Clouds bringing shadows, and first
Drops of rain at dusk.
To catch a trout the traditional highland way - without rod and line - you lie down on the side of a stream and reach down under the peaty bank with your hands, and - if you find the right place - there in the cool you will find one trout or several trout. The next stage is not too hard. You gently reach your open hand under its belly and start to lightly stroke it. This is tickling trout. If the fish is not initially alarmed, the stroking relaxes it into a dreamy lull. The really difficult part is the sudden pull of the fish, up and out of the water and onto the bank. I remember a dreamy late afternoon in summer when I several times had fish in my hands, but each time failed in the final manoeuvre.
And I recall the lurking trout, speckled browns and tan,
In the sun-flecked, peat-stained waters
That sauntered and swirled, dreamed and drifted,
Quite undisturbed in the afternoon gleam:
Hidden streaks of silver in the deeps,
Stroked in the shadows beneath overhanging banks.
Felt the quiet throb of their trance-like reverie
As I caressed them, hushed them, lost them
In a darting moment, of shattered sunlight, sky-sprayed rainbows,
And falling back into the shining heather.
Down in the threads of waterweed, the mottled fish
Inhabit their own country, their secluded silence
Among the dappled shadow and sunlit pebbles of the streambed
While indolently the waters journey on,
Winks of sunlight playing on the surface, but further down
A lurking otherworld, lurking within ourselves as well,
That ancient flood and flow.
The walk to Culra bothy
I will never forget the frozen winter's night
We walked to Culra bothy.
Our minibus had headed north
Through the darkening miles beyond the last dim lights
Until the engine died at the silent road-end
And we jumped down with our packs
Into the fallen snow, beneath the shadowy trees,
The coldness snatching those first few breaths
Amid the quiet laughter, the strapping of kit,
Flickering of torches and shadowed faces.
It was deep winter.
Overhead the galaxies hung and shimmered,
The path before us ten miles of moorland track
And lonely woods, the snow so crisp
Each footstep broke its surface then
Sank in to ankle depth, or else the wind
Had swept it all aside and left instead
An ice-smeared causeway, hard as black iron,
While further on the drifts, in knee-deep softness
Had us ploughing and plunging, falling and pressing forward
As we journeyed through the night.
Switching our torches off, our eyes accustomed to the dark,
We marked the outline of hills and approaching forest
And the cabin at Pattack.
There we cast off rucksacks for a little rest,
Whispered and murmured in our hushed and midnight dreams,
Then harnessing ourselves once more, the last four miles
Across the open wilderness towards Culra.
Tiredness by now was nibbling the frayed edges
Of our last consciousness, true-love sleep beckoned,
Yet - see - there was so much beauty, so much romance,
Like journeys you might read about in books
Into strange lands of wonderful adventure, other worlds
Of dark enchantment, and precious faith.
And we had left behind the mundane comforts
So we could come out here, and enter in
Enter this kingdom, court this distant land.
Out across the final meadows, where the silenced streams
Reflected wheeling stars in their dark stillness,
And hushed by the coldness descending from Ben Alder,
The bothy nestled, awaiting our occupation,
The spreading of sleeping bags, the muttered goodnights -
Knowing in that darkness, in that sleep-bestowing darkness,
That dawn would break dazzling, the mountains white battlements
Calling to us, the blue-skied heaven shining, everything
Gleaming, gleaming and overflowing with life,
Overflowing with joy.
Highland beauty, dark one, mo nighean,
All day we have laughed and known the close
Encounter of attraction and flagrant desire,
And I have longed to press against you
Hold and enfold you, give myself to your ardour
All nature whole and beautiful within you,
Your breasts like paps - like the distant paps of Jura -
Far off beyond the waters, beyond the cold waters,
Remote and out of reach, untouchable.
How I would long to sail across those narrows
And steal up the silent glen at dusk
Between the dark flanks of the shadowy mountains
And know you, meet you, in the darkening wilds,
Fighting and clashing in the summer evening,
Reclusive, lovely and given to one another,
On the damp cool earth under glimmering stars.
Or play with you all afternoon once more
Laugh at your laughter, smile at your smiles
And let you splash me in the stream again,
Your kisses like wild strawberries,
Our bodies pressed together on the hillside
As you rise above me in the gleaming sunlight,
Forcing me down, face down, in the tangled heather
Leaving the stain of bilberries smeared across my lips.
Twenty Years Dead
I was born among daffodils,
hushed and softly present all around me;
or rather, those dreamy nodding dancers
with their fresh green stems
were my earliest memory of all.
I was born amid beauty and wonder,
and I felt no need to ask
questions of any kind.
Or I would lie on my back
looking up into forest-fragrant green
of mysterious christmas
and see those perfect coloured spheres
suspended, out of time,
reclusive among the branches
whole universes of loveliness and wonder
without the need for thought.
Then I recall the monstrous billowing,
hand soft-snuggled and tucked in my father's love,
as the Royal Scot was coming, coming
and - past - in the child-dancing,
arm-swinging, wild-joyed uproar
of one abandoned moment, one grandeur, one hope!
How I miss him, twenty years dead
and all that childhood past.
'And the river flowing...'
The day had dawned grey and overcast,
Autumnal showers in the unfrequented corries
And silent shroud over still Glen Etive.
Skirting the lonely sheep-folds, and ruins of bygone days,
I hopped across the lichen-crusted quartz
And quiet waters by some turquoise pools -
A peace within my heart
And the river flowing.
Climbing the ridge, toward the darkening clouds
That loomed and lurked on old Ben Starav,
I saw an eagle, drift and loiter,
Before turning a buttress and soaring out of sight.
While far below me in the sullen glen
I could see the boulder-fretted rapids
Thread in a distant silence down the valley
And the river flowing.
On the summit plateau, alone and quite apart,
I negotiated the rock-strewn desolation -
A scattering of early snow and keening gusts of wind
Told me the day was on the turn, the seasons also,
The year end beckoning, drawing dark days in -
And felt my own life on the move as well,
Its drawing in toward the winter night
Like a river flowing.
At end of day, long after light had failed
And the early evening stars were pricking out
In the clearing darkness of a far-flung sky,
I tracked the shadowed bends of the River Ba
Along all those low meandering miles, with the sad and distant moon
Reflecting on its dark and silent surface,
Felt that still silence of the deep heart's ceaseless flood
And the river always flowing.
These little poems were written by Susannah Clark