Photograph of Callanish by Islay McLeod
The White Fairy Cow of Callanish
Donald S Murray
It's like some tale the Sun or Daily Mail might share
about the ills of immigration – how that white cow came to land
not far from the Stones, standing still for locals to milk with their hands,
aware the season had been cruel to them, that crops were sparse and bare
with not much to eat. And then there came some nasty foreign witch,
two pails clutched in fingers. Wanting more than that beast supplied,
the immigrant milked the entire system dry,
licked the cream the cat might have obtained, drained with her touch
the benefits of locals. Or so they claimed within that tale
that led to the vote on Brexit, spun by the Daily Mail.
Election Deluge (from a rural constituency, June 2017)
Emails were sent out to staff the night before –
a) there will be increased police presence
at all polling stations
b) what to do in an emergency and who to call
Today there's only been an increase
in the rain, with morning mist turning to
a steady downpour.
No wind so it falls straight down,
soaking through the paper poster
we put up outside, with POLLING STATION
printed in large letters.
It collapsed into wet pieces on the ground.
On the pavement, placards
with the names of candidates on them
are wet and buckled
giving them a look that’s both romantic and neglected –
nostalgic as an old film,
the colours and the contours run,
turn into history before our eyes,
before their time, before the day is even done.
They fold in on themselves like shipwrecked messages
floating on the surface of the sea.
I think of le déluge
de Gaulle said would come après moi,
read signs into the innocence of summer rain
that many of the seventy-odd people
I've had conversations with so far
say that we are needing, definitely,
fields and gardens need this rain.
No emergency, this rain is natural
Flood warnings are out.
A few birds sing, subdued and sotto voce
mostly they are hushed and – I imagine – sheltering.
Trees and bushes drip
magnificent with leaves and flowers
covering and overflowing garden fences.
So luxurious a summer.
Walking across Iona, I passed by
the graves of Northern kings and queens who lie
with Celtic saints whose bones can't sanctify
my want of faith. I watched a skylark fly –
the brown bird dark against the daylight sky –
and listened until its song had flown too high
to hear, as silent as the nuclei
that float in the vitreous chamber of my eye.
We plough old meadows and sow wheat, oats and rye;
we spray our hunger on beetles, tares, fungi.
And each year for the loaves of bread we buy
ground-nesting breeding pairs of skylarks die.
As intimate as the sounds of speech
are the conversations of the seas
around the Hebrides
and plainsong on a shingle beach.