There was nothing there where the roadway split
save a post box and a wooden trunk
labelled “messages”. A disused chapel
sheltered behind some oak trees, cradled
in a lush green cushion of rhododendrons.
Where track met road, there stood the first monument
recording the names of men drawn to their death
where patriotism and courage met lead.
The sun shone and the flies moved with urgency
to seek something rotten in the noontime heat.
On this road, the ‘nothing’ hummed with hidden life,
red flashes flew past, rustlings animated
the roadside bushes and ripe berries
glistened in the sunlight……… I go on.
……leaving the forgotten dead to their glory.
Ravens policed the land, dancing on the wind,
always absorbed in the business of living.
The road led to another memorial
making a claim on a glory absent
from the old battle of pick and stone,
the spreading of seaweed across the soil.
The queen had survived in her miserable
luxury and men of gristle honoured her
with a pyramid of stones, their battle trophies.
Across the loch, a stray gull ‘cased the joint’
for who knows what leavings, the slimy remains
of flesh and skin……………. I go on
………..to find, through a dark gap by the roadside,
an obelisk, hidden in the hedgerows of birch,
oak and rowan rising from the tangle
of moss-soaked roots and thronged by midge, wasp, beatle.
Built by the poor to honour a just laird,
a modest custodian of a lost world,
the stone was placed where it would be forgotten.
Did they know? Was it their revenge, hidden
in a thicket of solemn respect and gentle tears?
Or could they not imagine their world would be
no longer a place, nothing there save the hum
of insects, the choir of wind in the trees
and a conference of ravens on their beat.
From nowhere came the wide winged hawk, eager
for blood, for the grip of talon on bone,
leaving for a moment its cloak of invisibility
in the trees………… I go on
……..ancient stones stand in a field far from the highway,
circled in a pattern of unknown dimension,
offering a kind of resistance to Nature’s
disregard for history and contemplation.
They stand, rough chinned, at a distance, staring inwards,
avoiding the danger of communication,
silent, blank faced, telling us nothing
beyond endurance, now an unremarked endurance
in an empty valley,
A vole scurries
across my path, animated by terror.
And so I go on…….to the sea, a beach,
a community of houses, a cafe
fronted by ranks of polished cars and mobile homes
so this road from nowhere leads past memories
to something; yet this something seems to float
on the land. It doesn’t sit within it – it will
prompt no mausoleum and will slip away
to Edinburgh when the hard times come.
They houses will join the clearance ruins
and one last memorial to the crowning
of a king who wasn’t, will stand unseen
as the flood waters rise. I have walked
from nowhere to the sea, dwarfed by the hills,
ignored by the wildness that will live on
whilst I float away as do all men
no matter how many memorials
we build into the thin soil and unforgiving rocks.