Strathoykel

©Donald Bain
Poem by Dave Goulder

He reaches for another stone

Turns and bends, back to the wind to place it.

Once again the gale lifts his wax jacket

up and over

His shoulders, admitting the sleet and rain

into his army sweater.

The stone not quite in place,

he straightens to fasten the useless press studs

yet again, and yet again he curses

his condition.

This weather can smash a man;

not quite severe

not enough to drive him home, conscience eased.

He suffers discomfort

and frustration,

a craftsman struggling with his craft

eye and touch dulled

by the buffeting wind.

He hates his skill.

It has brought him to this

grim place;

a treeless hillside of thin peat

that grows nothing

except stones.

His son has long since gone home,

loyalty strained to its limit by cold

the boy signals an unspoken appeal

for release

and takes refuge with the flickering pictures

in the distant house

that the man can dimly see

from his bleak perch.

Later, when the slow, short day has become history

and wet clothes steam by the stove,

the man ponders on the nearly empty glass;

a few drops of amber fluid, crafted

on an island he has never seen.

The family long asleep,

the hour is precious;

the sum of these few good things

is just worth the cost.

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