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Carousel Of Silences

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  • Carousel Of Silences

    A pair of worn hands at rest on a black tweed
    skirt: that is all there is to see: and yet those
    deep veined hands with their broken fingernails
    reveal not only a life but a way of being.

    Those hands that have spun and woven and dyed
    the clothes you, your husband, your children
    and grandchildren wore are now fixed forever
    in a held moment of stillness. You have woven

    yourself and your loved ones out of time. In the
    unseen cottage, hewn out of rock and weighed down
    with boulders in defiance of storms, I imagine
    a dark, walled clock with its spindly arms

    folded as one onto the soft lap of noon.
    Beneath echoes of time, on the beeswaxed dresser,
    that carousel of silences: a china dog guarding each corner;
    blue patterned plates and bowls; green whisky bottles;

    the framed icons of the Virgin: her face, moulded
    into serenity, glazed by veils of sunlight stealing
    through hair-fringed window eyes. Outside, those uneven
    pyramids of peat still glistening wet from deep layers

    of moor where I see your bowed, shawled head shrouded
    by midges. I catch that burnt honey scent of gorse
    and picture black cattle daydreaming in mauves
    of heather, ghosted by moist breaths of sea winds.

    see you also, bent double beneath a wicker
    creel of seaweed, salt water streaming down your
    back like smelting silver in afternoons of spring
    with peewits preening and strutting between lazybeds.

    A lifetime of joy and suffering scoured on hands
    which you display with deep acceptance and pride as
    if you sensed that you and your kind were the last
    of a royal line with that crown of scythed, gold-flecked

    oats in encircled stooks, angling across stoned fields in the
    taken breath of a September evening, waulked by fingers of
    moonlight, with green and silver bands of mackerel winding
    beneath the translucent surface of the gouged eye of bay.

    Those photographed hands live on like lived poems
    while you, forever faceless, lie in the island's sparse soil.
    The life of you and your kind like stories knitted
    around a stubborn fire to keep the warmth within.

    In 1954 the great American photographer, Paul Strand spent three months in South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, and recorded life in a traditional community that was soon to change. One of Strand's most haunting images consists simply of a pair of aged hands resting on the knees of a faceless woman.

  • #2
    This is so outstanding. I can't believe no one has commented on it. You kept my rapt attention as you painted this with your words -- sad and beautiful.


    • Islay
      Islay commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you very much for your comments, they are much appreciated. Have you ever been to the Hebridean islands of Scotland? I was born and brought up on the Hebridean island of Islay where my father was the head gardener at a castle on the island. I'm a great admirer of the Hebridean photographs of Paul Strand.

  • #3
    Such a vivid and beautifullly wrought poem! You engage all the senses and evoke a sense of place and character that is intensely present. Thank you for sharing this, Islay!


    • Islay
      Islay commented
      Editing a comment
      Dear Grant, Thank you for taking the trouble to comment on my poem, it's very kind of you.

  • #4
    This is a masterpiece, Islay! We all somehow missed this post when posted. I read this touching and lovely poem with rapt attention, enjoying the beautiful imagery and the wonderful choice of words. Thank you sharing the inspiration for the piece. From acorns, mighty oaks grow.


    • Islay
      Islay commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm so glad you enjoyed reading my poem and much appreciate your comments.

  • #5
    this is really great,unique and very informative post, i like it. thanks