My third and final guest poet is Mandy Beattie. Here is her mysterious poem inspired by a local Scottish landmarkof standing stones.
A pantry of organic nettle tea and skeins of wild raspberries tumble through the turnstile between times of concrete & standing-stanes where sky sits a duck-egg blue ceiling on the Hill O’ Many Stanes
The Land O’ The Cat where Hairy-Brottachs hatch into Louded Yellow and Green-Veined White butterflies and dandelion clocks puff among mosaics of standing-stanes
Kneeling at a silver stane-pew palming ley-lines with my life-lines I am litmus among lichen waking-dreaming of way-back-when the Wee Folk jigged in amethyst heather and fairy rings in The Land O’ the Cat where the veil’s still thin between worlds.
Poem Copyright of Mandy Beattie
Note:- The Hill o’ Many Stanes consists of about 200 small stones arranged in rows running down a low hill in East Caithness, Northern Scotland. They were erected about 4,000 years ago, possibly for gatherings and religious ceremonies. Caithness was once known as the Land of the Cat People, a reference to an ancient legendary tribe of Picts who inhabited the area.
Mandy Beattie, is a feminist from Caithness, with an MA in Social Work Practice & Research. Her poetry is a tapestry of stories and imagery, rooted in people, place & the natural environment, set at home and abroad.
Here’s a sultry, sensuous poem from my guest poet for this post, the talented Meg Macleod.
I remember braiding her hair, the woman who shared her island with me. “I can’t reach it now,” she said to me. Her hair, as soft as silk, pale golden silk. My fingers lifted it, brushed it out, dividing it into three strands. I slowly braided it letting it fall down her back. “So fine,”I said. “Beautiful.” I walked out across the sun bleached porch and stood looking out over the sea while she wrapped salmon in seaweed and baked it in a fire between the rocks on the shore.
Poem copyright of Meg Macleod
Meg was born in 1945 in England. She lived in America and Canada before moving to Scotland in 1974 where she now resides on the north coast in a house looking out over the sea towards Orkney Islands. Meg has a BA in Fine Arts. Her beautifully illustrated book of poems entitled Raven Songs is available to buy from Amazon.
For the first time on the Purple Hermit we have a poem from a guest poet, fellow Scottish writer and friend, Alastair Simmons. Enjoy!
Blue Poppies (In memory of Esther)
She took ages to answer the door in the heavy summer rain. Finally, she fumbled open the catch. Her hand was bandaged, her eyes blackened, on a white face. “Err, I’ve had a fall,” she said, her hands still shaking. “Err, I’ve come about the garden, gardening,” I said. Suddenly, her eyes sparked then ignited ninety plus years held in darkening pupils, the delicate filament in her blue iris illuminated. “Did I tell you about trekking in the Himalayas? Right over the pass for six days. I remember now, the blue poppies, wonderful,” she said. She began talking, as if she’d known me all of my relatively short life. She took my arm and leaned hard on the old wooden stick, “Now let me show you the roses.” The summer rain pelted like an Asian monsoon. We didn’t notice.
By Alastair Simmons 2012
Alastair lives on the Northeast Scottish coast, finding inspiration in the landscapes of Scotland and Northern England, and also it’s cities. And the gardens he creates, working as a gardener. “Poetry is about finding connection and expressing that feeling, whether it’s people, nature or worlds we find ourselves in.”
Instead of writing my novel I am staring at a bunch of bananas, or more precisely at the juxtaposition of the fruit with a box of Gourmet cat food, a calendar, jars of pasta, a face flannel and a pack of hair grips. The randomness of this arrangement reflects the insanity of my life during these Covid months. If ever there was a plot I have truly lost it along with any desire to keep a tidy house. The absence of visitors due to the restrictions has eroded my inner hausfrau. Instead I have developed a taste for the creativity of chaos. I used to be one for everything in its place, now I think there is a place in everything.
I keep thinking about the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat. If no one speaks to me or sees me or hears me for several days there is the equal probability that I am both dead and alive at the same time. The reality of my existence is not validated by others. For ten months I’ve been living in a grainy gritty twilight zone like a scene from a movie shot on Super8. I need to keep looking in the mirror just to check I’m still here. There’s always a tingle of surprise when I see myself, relatively unscathed, looking back.
I am writing this with a yellow pen and therefore prone to optimism.
There are times when it’s hard to spot the signs of hope hidden amongst the negativity and gloom that surrounds us at present. As UK appears to sink beneath another wave of a more virulent strain of Covid 19 many of us are teetering on the edge of despair. Today when I opened my front door to another cold and frosty winter’s day I noticed the teeny tiny shoots of crocuses emerging in a plant pot. They were almost invisible amongst the moss, weeds and colourful pebbles but they were definitely there. So however grim our lives might appear at present we must pause and look for the good stuff and remember tomorrow is another day.
However you chose to spend Christmas I hope you had a peaceful time. I enjoyed an alternative solitary Christmas with my cat…no tree, decorations or turkey but Moroccan Chicken with couscous followed by pumpkin pie and later I watched a Korean zombie movie. This was the view from my kitchen window when I was washing up.
And here was my cat chilling out in her own way…
Wherever you are -stay safe and make the most of the little things in life.
As Britain spins in a maelstrom of Covid mutations and Brexit insanity I realise that the mega-hours I spent watching post-apocalyptic/survival/science fiction/disaster/horror/zombie movies have not been wasted. I am fully psyched for the reality show in which I now play a minor (so far) role – numerous crowd scenes featuring clapping for the NHS or fighting for a food delivery…? This nail-biting series could be called Escape from UK, The Last Ferry, No Way Home or Gone Broccoli Gone.
Further suggestions on a postcard please addressed to our buoyant Prime Minister Boris at 10 Downing Street, London.
In the meantime I have shaved off my hair as hairdressers are a distant dream and changed my make-up to match.
Another piece of flash fiction mined from an old notebook. I wrote this just after my relocation to the Far North of Scotland fifteen years ago.
Tuesday morning Seagulls wail the sound of loss and loneliness as I make my way down the hill to the harbour. The road unfurls a paper scroll and the turquoise shimmer of the sea beckons. On the horizon I see a small red dot, faltering, almost lost in the haze; a warning, a sign, an anticipation of homecomings. Or unwelcome return. I stop on the bridge and watch the ochre discharge of peaty water cascading down the brae. The wind blows cold carrying the stink of diesel from below. I don’t want to go on. Nauseous, I lean against the railings while my stomach spasms, ejecting the loathsome bile of my fear into the river. I’m glad there’s no-one around, only a dog chasing ducks and barking.
Tuesday afternoon A small red dot on the road behind me, shrinking, getting smaller and smaller until I have to pretend I can still see him in the rear view mirror. An imaginary dab of scarlet on the tarmac like the smudge of a blood stain on a clean white blouse, an embarrassment, something quickly washed away and forgotten. No longer real. Just a story I made up or a dream or the memory of a dream. Ahead lies a clear horizon and an open road. If I look carefully I can see a small yellow dot; a pale circle of gold, insignificant, like a wary hitch-hiker hovering and waiting but getting closer, swelling bigger and brighter and more beautiful. Until I can see nothing else, my vision obscured by glorious yellow light.
And the past is dissolved away, reduced to a pile of bleached old bones at the side of the road.