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Essence

She removes her coat
stretches back
breath by breath
smears petals steeped in fat
the warm gland of a tiny deer
and grease from a whale’s gut
across each wrist
behind her knees
in the crook of her elbows
beneath each ear

she stills herself
flickering by the fire
I’ll eat him alive.

The Stony Thursday Book, December, (2016)

 

Saga

Einar oily-tongue
son of Thorir the silent
brother of Harald fair-hair
and Olaf the white took Ragnhilda
daughter of Amund wall-eye had three sons
Thord half-foot Gudred most-beard and Sigurd
the stout. One midwinter Einar had tidings Olaf
Bjarn hook-tooth and his housecarls would war him
he parleyed with Steinhoff the low and Thorsten cod-biter
rode forth with his sons and twenty men to settle the matter
at the place of stones Bjarn offered him single combat they clashed
long with sword and axe till Einar severed Bjarn’s neck a mighty strike
Olaf the white gave Solveig his daughter to Thord for wife they made up
the quarrel Einar hung Bjarn’s head from his mount’s crupper set for home
in celebration as he spurred the horse Bjarn’s tooth pierced his calf the wound
sprung with dark swelling they laid him in the Hall at Orphir his sons made sacrifice
three hermits but the great warrior chief Einar oily-tongue went in fever to his death.

The Interpreter’s House, 65, (2017)

 

East Ireland

Rain set in.

Marched from Newry to Rathfriland, distance fourteen miles.
The first part of the route I did not see, being asleep
on Major Henly's elephant. Arrived Mayobridge at midday
where I located my horse. The road then tolerably good,
interspersed with streams and banyan trees. Comfort
and cleanliness are little observed in these parts.

Found quarters in Rathfriland, water good
and plenty of supplies for a battalion.
Building great temples and drinking illicit whiskey
prevails greatly among the populace. The country about,
one continued prospect of dark, rocky hills.
Killed a snake in my sleeping room.

Marched to Katesbridge, distance eight miles.
A precipitous descent into jungle,
sighted leopard, apes and buffalo
but I could not obtain a clear shot.
Our native guide twice lost his way
so we did not reach the nullah Bann until sunset.
Across the muddy water a wretched place,
not above thirty dwellings built in a square
by way of defence. A six-pounder
would demolish the whole in ten minutes.

Marched to Castlewellan, distance twelve miles.
The coldest morning so far, my feet were near frozen
in the stirrups and my horse sank to his withers
crossing the nullah Bann. The road beyond mostly sound
but in places steep and stony. Proceeded through land in crop
of sugar-cane and rice. Castlewellan, with a fine bazaar,
appears capable of supplying a large camp.

Weather cool, light rain.

Magma, 70, (2018)

 

Hermit

The tide rises twice
like Sun and Moon
it gives and takes away
slack along the strand
pebbles swirled into brows
glaucous weed to chew.

Walk the bounds of this isle
day upon day
storms buffet and ease
seafowl beat their wings
thin land stumbles
from hill to bouldered shore.

Used to steep calfskin in dung
scraped and stretched
for the dainty scribe
my illumination perished
last winter with my boat
it kept the fire.

Rock cleft for shelter
draw water from a tarn
set snares and till the earth
no cattle milked
no cider brewed
no Lauds sung.

I swallow my spittle
howl into the wind
torn fleece gathered about me
the whin creaks
my furrows are bare
let thistles grow instead of wheat.

Northwords Now, 33, (2017)

 

Pregate per noi *

two Nissen huts joined
lone bell in pointed arch
lantern of bully-beef tins
the crown of thorns
barrel-vaulted nave
angel with horn and lyre
hand clasping a nail
wrought iron scrolls
cherub sheathing his sword
concrete altar on barbed-wire frame
boat fleeing the tempest
tabernacle of salvaged wood
dove, blue sky and stars.

* Written at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, Orkney

The Honest Ulsterman, June, (2016)

 

Message in a Bottle

Marianne Winkler
--------Retired Postal Worker
found a bottle
--------on a beach in Amrum
the North Frisian Isles
--------108 years 4 months
and 18 days after

George Parker Bidder
--------Marine Biologist
threw a bottle
--------into the North Sea
with a message
--------in Dutch and German
return to sender
--------for the reward
of one shilling.

She returned the message
--------to him by post
at the Marine Biological Association
--------Plymouth  Devon.
Bidder had died in 1954
--------but they sent her many thanks
and a shilling
--------they bought on eBay.

Tales from the Forest, 4, (2017)