I am one speck of dust passing through.
I am silk thread unraveling
the caterpillar inside her cocoon.

I am the blood of winter
sun beyond the horizon
and I float a murmur of starlings.

I brood a melancholy song
whispering blue into the wind.
I glide the last seeds from the sycamore.

I hunt the moon with moth-silver wings
and streak midnight skies with electricity.
I skim my love with words touching skin.

I breathe one thought between me and you.
I am one speck of dust passing through.


Photograph by the author

Before the Storm

Mast bells peel strange lands, humans float
confetti in dark pools. Through the crimson door
beyond the promised mountain, the sun stills
my enemy, my friend. The oak tree
marches shadows across blue fields. Birds sing
grey lullabies to the dispossessed
and marsh marigolds play torch songs.
Stone eagles wait for night, fly, swoop high
in peach schnapps skies. My breath, in out, in
out, my chest shrivels old party balloons.
Skin stings, cold bees devouring ears, eyes
don’t see, fingers don’t.
My pen is not mightier,
the world ink fades.
I become invisible
wind turning pages,
the last ship leaving.


Photograph by the author

For Your Eyes Only

These found poems are based on the real letters of Annie Mackay.  She spent her brief life working the small family croft in a remote area of the Highlands.  Sadly, she developed cancer and died at the age of 21 in 1957. Her orphaned six month baby boy was left to be raised by an aged uncle.  At the time illegitimate children were considered social outcasts.  No-one ever discovered the identity of the baby’s father which might be hinted at in these letters.  They were written to Annie’s married sister Violet who had moved to Edinburgh.  I love these letters because they are full of joy and humor even though Annie was already aware of her illness. They also paint a picture of the preoccupations of a country girl and life in the 1950s.

December, 1956.

Dear Violet,

I sold eighteen turkeys
so we can have a night
out in the pub,
going from bad to worse (puff).
Ronald says Ray is a born lunatic,
that was his opinion when he saw
the photos and then the blue jersey.
Your hair looked very nice,
is that a new dress you had on?
I hope it’s nylon
I’m not in favor of wool.

Lots of love and kisses,
from Annie


January, 1957

Dear Violet

I can tell you about it. There was turkey for dinner, then at 3 o’clock tea.
I had my cake with 21 candles. All the family were there listening to Lux
and singing The Railroad Runs Through the Middle of the House.
I think its super, don’t you?  Lena brought the record Walking in the Rain.
I like it do you?
Jesse gave me £5 and Connie £2 and Grandad two aprons and Mary a nylon underset
and Margaret a necklace, sparkles all colors and Donald a mohair scarf (awfully warm)
and Sheena nylons and Jane a cameo brooch and Granny a Terrylene blouse.
I’m not in favor of blue.
And from Julie a ‘Le Page’ compact and from Johnny, Black Rose perfume,
very good of him and from Lynn a Coty lipstick, nearly ruby and from Alan a purse.
What a present, not much use with no money and then of course, your presents.
Johnny stayed till midnight… everyone else went off at six.

Lots of love and kisses,
from Annie


PS  A Separate Special Instalment for your Eyes Only:-

[                                                                       ]

                        [                                                                       ]



Photograph by the the author


Highland River

Everywhere you look in the Highlands there are wild seas, sparkling waterfalls,  crystal rivers and lochs.  Rain falls almost every day.  Northern Scotland is a realm of water.  Perhaps that is why so many people choose to make it their home.  Human beings, like other animals, have an instinct to gather near water.  Water is a source of sustenance, essential to survival.

Many of the novels of acclaimed Scottish novelist Neil M Gunn (born 1891 – died 1973) focus on a watery theme:- Morning Tide, The Silver Darlings, The Grey Coast, The Drinking Well and Highland River which won the 1937 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.  Neil Gunn was born in Dunbeath, a tiny coastal village which is a half hour drive from my home.  His father was the captain of a herring boat and Gunn’s writing explores the harsh lives, isolation and landscapes of Caithness fishing communities.  Gunn was a socialist and a political activist committed to Scottish Nationalism and independence.  His writing has a Zen-like intensity with an underlying mysticism, detailed descriptions of landscape and the slow unfurling of events.


Photo by the author


Visitors to Dunbeath harbour today will see a striking bronze statue of a boy wrestling with a huge salmon.  The statue illustrates a dramatic scene from Highland River when nine year old Kenn captures a salmon with his bare hands.  The novel contrasts this childhood struggle for survival and dominance with the brutality of World War 1 when an adult Kenn joins the British army.

Within the first two pages Gunn introduces the novel’s main protagonist, establishes the remote community setting and the landscape whilst building dramatic mood and tension.  It is an example of Neil Gunn’s great skill as a writer.  Here is a short excerpt describing when Kenn on a cold morning, reluctantly goes to the river pool for water for the breakfast tea just before he sees the salmon:-

“Out of that noiseless world in the grey of the morning, all his ancestors came at him. They tapped his breast until the bird inside it fluttered madly; they drew a hand along his hair until the scalp crinkled; they made the blood within him tingle to a dance that had him leaping from boulder to boulder before he rightly knew to what desperate venture he was committed.”


A tangle of creel baskets at Dunbeath harbour where small scale crab and lobster fishing has replaced the thriving herring industry of the early nineteenth century.

Autograph Book

Where are U
Gerard Duvall?
2 cute 2 B
4 gotten.

Leather coat,
groovy French name,
eyes cool as mud,
auburn mane.

In teenage shade
U left your cabbage
heart 4 me,
white as paper.

frozen kisses,
in my book.

I counted
empty pages


Note:- Before the age of Facebook and digital ‘likes’ adolescents used autograph books with pastel colored pages to collect signatures and messages from their friends.  These often included humorous rhymes.


Original Photograph- The Seeds of Love, created by the author.


Table for One

Together but alone they come in from the rain,
wait at the counter of The Wicker Man Café.
She admires his shark grey boots and denim thighs.
He looks back, meets her eyes. She smiles.
She orders chocolate cake and tea.
He orders a bacon roll and coffee.

They take separate tables, numbers two and five.

She sits facing the street, looks at the harbor.
She admires umbrellas, orange boats, blue water.
She thinks – is this the start of a long lasting love affair?
With sparkle and poise she spreads a hard knob of butter.
She thinks – find extra pleasure in the small.
She thinks – the possibilities are endless.

He sits with his back to the window, scans the jobs page.
He clocks the breasts on the young waitress.
He thinks – should never have quit the rig.
He tries his phone, searching for a signal.
He thinks – I’ve no more fight.
He thinks – it’s all too late.

She tries not to stare when he stumbles out the door.
On her way home she buys roses scented with moon-dust.


Photograph by the author