The tarn shivers. A ribbon of rooks
blister the quiet. Here, the half-light teases
with rumour, stones melting to shadows,
melt into stones. The climb beckons.
I ascend, back bent, bone cold, trusting
a thinning path of inclines, crones
of crag and cleft bearded with myth.
My straying ways have led me here—
without a map, compass, no signpost
but this cairn — a stubborn wart.
A sullen wind comes prowling, conjures
the chant of hands that lay the stones.
Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn,
sang the clansmen, but none did return.
Chant and prayer, prayer and chant,
at the end, do we all clutch at words?
I scrawl your word cwtch. The stone
listens, waits and weighs my purpose.
I lay hope on the cairn, a gesture
to stray with you and bring warmth
to cold places. Your laughter will be coffee.
Our secret joy will be a clear sky.
by Phil Wood
Editor’s Note: Surreal imagery brings the speaker’s loneliness into vivid focus in this poem, where the search for connection is hauntingly elusive despite the hopeful close.
Poet’s Note: Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, “I’ll put a stone on your cairn”.
The clansmen, if they survived the battle, would return for their stone.