A Tale of Two Islands

You, in your corner of Antrim, where your sea jewel emerald, a giant heaved up a causeway in

a story black as basalt, hexagonal to crystalise wrath from ocean;

and yet too short to reach my shore. He never thought of a land bridge, since you fret at

Carrick-a-Reede,

planks and ropes, in suspension between two cliffs, where fulmars glide, cackle with pride – in that Northern Irish accent…

You should be dreaming in Glasgow.

Broch making in Hoswick

Here, we build brochs as watch towers from rounded stones to eye each movement from the sea.

Da Roost has declared us landlocked.

I made a fresh pot of veg soup with enough carrots, leek and kale; freed my coatrack from winter tales And polished taps to revive chrome…

A full spring clean I call redd-up.

I count minutes between two gusts, knot for windspeed around headlands where lights still blink and

refract hope…

Instead our world’s tied to bollards, silenced and still; locked inside docks, behind closed doors,

I too wish to forward the clock;

watch you sail past my island shore, as the sun rises in your eyes… Watch you glide across the pressgang, long corrugated corridor that reunites our words and smiles,

Instead, I listen to the wind…

What a start to the new decade, April and voar. Somebody unleashed a devil, a terrorist invisible that sweeps and snatches blindfolded…

And pray it spares you in Belfast.

© Nat Hall 2020

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Cacophonous

Cirrus clouds above our land

In this world silenced by a terrorist disease, skylarks still sing above an early April hissing gale.

In this part of the main island, where Sandness looks lost inside haze, tussock grass yields, yet those birds we call laverick have returned as lairds o’da braes – elevated above da tun an da scattald (human dwellings and open fields where grazing’s shared among crofters…).

Deserted world except for birds…

They will defy the harshest gust, ignore that brutal tongue from gales to sing to blueness and the sun.

To each passing of cirrus clouds, they do not know the world’s locked down, as they ascend among ravens, oblivious to material us.

They have returned in their hundreds to the daresay of each hillside.

On this Monday lost in April, this sky has turned cacophonous, as hillsides home song of skylarks, that dare to ignore gusts from gales…

And us, below, slaved to silence.

© Nat Hall 2020

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buskathon

www.facebook.com/groups/546054812710621/wp/1402988476555321/

Over the past week, “Captain Jacko Pistachio” was at the helm of an amazing project called “Buskathon” to which I felt honoured to contribute, as the poet.

The link above will take you to 19 video clips where you will find a gang of creatives at the service of a great cause – our community foodbank.

Poetry hence nestled among music, story telling, Shetland cuisine and humour.

Reading to a device screen from the comfort of the den to an invisible audience proved a novel and somewhat nerve wracking experience at first, though sharing the moment felt as exciting as a more conventional public reading. 😀

What a great experience!

I will do it again! What’s more, within a week of performance, Buskathon raised an incredible £5000.00 and folk still have till Wednesday to give a few pennies.

I still remember 1985, a phenomenal LiveAid concert, after which Bob Geldoff once said, “thank you for your money.”

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Sick of Soap

My hands are sick of soap.

They look so crissed, wrinkled apples, cracked as a ledge in sandstone cliff, as water erodes when I rinse.

Along the journey, they hold fast, endure sun, gales, seasons and tides,

the pen and hoe, satin and grind;

but every dip in hot water stings as if they delved into nettles, so hurt feels the epidermis, the balm won’t work…

I remember harshness of tools, bucket handles from a past world – slashing juncus or eau de javelle ;

water of death, water of life, survival comes at a high price.

My hands are sick of soap.

They never knew daily gutting from herring days, slyness of blades, the salt furnace from a barrel, but

glass paper, papier de verre – as

yellow liquid daily foamed to wash in haste between lessons. Day after day, weeks, months and terms, to beat what sticks invisible.

Those hands are sick of soap.

Sick of cover-ups, stings and lies… They bleed and peel when they don’t crack; they remind me of Lure Mountain or

Mont Ventoux,

wind-blasted, barren to blunt ice, torrents of fears or acid rain, as dead skin crumbles against nails.

Sick of soap hands cry for respite,

freedom from iron and shackles, that terrible terrorist desease that runs around like wildfire…

They need to heal to work longer.

© NH 2020.

Mont Ventoux

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Mon château d’If

If is a small island, a tiny rock burnt by salt buds, a lapping sea of sleaze and lies where one wanders between four walls…

If, an icon of question marks without a Scots pine or a mask time has rusted, corrupted to leave you breathless…

If has been fashioned and ignored, somewhere beyond your horizon; with only birds as companions… Sky too heavy for its burden,

an everlasting ripping tide.

If is a jail etched to forget in a blue corner of a world built to break you, body and soul, where you hope to come out

alive.

NH 2020

A rock, a fortress and a jail that captured imagination.

Poet’s Note:

I once visited the island as a child and the experience left a deep mark in my mind. That sense of isolation and confinement meant to break you resurfaces in a strange 21st century world. It stands for oppression.

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contagious

Earth dweller on stone wall

Last Tuesday night, I heard the shalders call in flight well after dusk for the first time. Too well known avian voices that notably signal a return to warmer days and crystalline dusks… How many days to the Vernal Equinox? For months on end, my nearby playing field filled with silence. And as Mother Earth lives in cycles, hissing gales are gradually giving way to a more clement earthsong. Tis the time for familiar crooners, such as the curlews and oystercatchers, we, on the island, call shalders.

There is an air of impatience, as blackbirds begin to advertise their will to love on chimney stacks – sparrows quarrel around willows, and even robins play dare-devils out of their hide-away stone walls. And if we are still to get away from treacherous March (with its last spells of icicles) rose bushes have begun to display their first leaves. Already, a few daring migrants have made their way to the Island, such as a stonechat in the Westside yesterday… Wildflowers too begin to bud and display their colour, such as the Lesser Celendine and the Coltsfoot showing a bit early!

On our way to Aith Meadows

The daily trip home at the end of the day can now divert away from the main tarmac artery that links South to North. At last, longer days allows us to meander around much more timeless corners of the shared wild and civilised. A drive along the coast, meadows and still heavily waterclogged fields to catch a glimpse of a skylark still to sing. Life is creeping back around our shores. Already golden plovers’ and curlews’ calls fill the still crisp air. So enchanting.

The first sight of a black guillemot in full regalia always feels a priviledge.

Sunrise over Mousa

This will to get out of darkness, witness a glowing sun after eight above a well loved offshore island is contagious.

March remains our month of rainbows, with its cortege of shine and hail, squallid showers & icicles. And as Imbolc now feels a distant memory, our dear great celestial star begins to dominate our world with less shame. It is wakening this hemisphere of Mother Earth with its flamboyant warmth, only to strenghen as we speak and cross the Vernal Equinox, when night and day cross swords to reach out parity. This dormant world needs to emerge and reveal its beauty! For Mother Earth has only one goal, life.

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Renaissance (first of 2020)

soundcloud.com/nordicblackbird/renaissance

The very first poem of this new decade, as recorded and posted in SoundCloud.

January has begun to wane already – we are about to burn a (replica) Viking longship in Lerwick, as about a thousand torches will shine in our Northern night tomorrow (Tuesday) evening… All this to celebrate the return of the Sun.

Renaissance appears very apt for this time of year.

Just click on the link below the picture.

Enjoy, dear reader/listener. 🙂

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Voilà

At last the raven glowed for the last time against the wall for the 2010s.

First and foremost, let me wish you, dear Reader, a great new year and – should our stars wish it – a much more positive (than anticipated) decade ahead… Of course, brand new pages are yet to be written, and the “now” must be fully lived as the most important since “tomorrow” never comes.

The island has been a wonderful shelter away from all the tumult south…

It has heaved hopes, made as well as it unmade dreams come true.

As some footprints vanished from the sand, others appeared… Yet, among the tears and smiles this past decade generated, the island gave me a definite sense of hame (home).

It has taught me crisis, resilience, and the will to rebuild the deeper self through time, love and words.

Achievement and the sheer sense to surmount whatever that past decade threw at my face has made me stronger. The dreamer (visionary) allowed the poet to pen and perform – da peerie lass to smile again when she was scared and let the woman flourish again.

I love that quote from the great NI man:

It makes complete sense.

That past decade took my heart to amazing places and made me tread on uncharted lands… Even made me learn new tongues and discover other cultures. It opened my eyes and heart and made me taste sour & sweet… Isn’t it what life is all about?

This low boreal sun always gives me a sense of determination and will to shine.

Creative wise, the final year of that same decade proved both productive and fun, with continued invitations to well established local events very close to my heart, including Shetland Singer-songwriters, Soul Time and Shetland Arts’ Celebration of Shetland Writing, as WordPlay was put in limbo this year…

But then,

the past decade ended with a fresh twinkle in one’s eye.

The change of world of my final feline companion at the end of last summer made me wander through the void- the nothing and some dark lands – until Saoirse appeared in early December (!) and signalled a new dawn on my island.

She was fostered in Toogs and found herself starting a new life two islands away. She joined on the last Sunday before Yule and has made da hoose her, wir hame.

And as we wandered across the winter solstice, candles and shared love keep us bright inside.

A new decade has just begun.

Barely two days. So many blank pages before my heart and pen; new adventures and slices of life to be explored.

Let’s pick it up from now, and see the many paths ahead.

As Lewis said it so evocatively.

Happy New Year,

Bonne et heureuse année,

Godt nyttår

and let the stars guide us.

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So

What happens between equinoxes remains a mystery.

…A black hole or stravaig in a desert where time locks itself in, as bubbles inside surf, or footprints lost through tides and gales.

Many walks done and gone. I still remember the Vernal Equinox, as March gave way to light and warmth. When birds returned to the island, and jenny wrens perched on roses to sing their songs, joined by blackbirds at dawn and dusk. A song so powerful, explosive and whimsical, you need to turn back and listen.

And as May comes with its unbound clemence, and shiny bright, stars vanish in the blue of night, as Beltane gives way to summer.

Summer, summer, da Simmer Dim, as our sky turns an opera house. Our island sings in tussock grass, around the bays – above our heads. It is a time filed with bounty, as our summer guests fish and hunt. A time where life fills with colours, where chicks grow feathers outwith dark. Darkness unknown to so many of us and fledlings until Arcturus reappears in late July. Our Atlantic and sense of North glow back orange. We then reignite our candles. In this mystical universe, the very few urban dwellers welcome July with refracting light in the bay. They do not question the great clock – the astronomical delight as da mirkin wins back its way. mirkin, murky times lie ahead…

Some walk through time on land, at sea.

As August wanes in honey gold, our most westerly land beacon feels a poltergheist at sunset. Foula, foul, fugl Island, with its bewildering cliff tops, redefines ife, geometry. Light as we knew from Simmer Dim – our nightless nights – lose in power, intensity. Our path to hairst and the autumnal equinox becomes clearer.

It is when night unveils its kaleidoscope of gales and stars. And we look more carefully, auroral glows in between clouds. Our pace hastens as we go home to the fire back in our hearths. Too soon the tides will speak out loud, and auroras trapped inside clouds will signal a new phase across the season. Few gannets fly, fish in the bay. Rose flowers gave way to their own fuits. The overgrowth lost its lushness… A lower sun shines through few leaves from alders or strong willows. That sense of blue tarnished with grey has lost its way. Deep purple hills back to bracken, bare and so brown.

September stepped in as a thief. October followed in its grace. Each wake-up call from our bedside triggers the start of each sunrise. Each minute lost now and regained, days have shortened and yet, still bright. I hear Sawhain’s still a long shot… Our winged friends wander south and south. For us, dwellers of thre island, we need to prepare for dark times.

Now, the island can sleep in peace, with auroras, constellations, stars and comets – a twany moon there as a friend.

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fatalité

ablaze

Victor Hugo had cried for her in his foreword… And it took a book (“Notre Dame de Paris“) to trigger major restoration works, as the elderly lady was notably suffering from severe erosion to time, history and the elements.

What happened last night felt totally surreal. Notre-Dame has survived so many ordeals – human assaults, the hands from time – and during those 850 years (or so), she saw a city grow and thrive.

Inside her so many memories. Her world famous bell – le bourdon – became associated with so many events (including the liberation of Paris in 1944) happy or sad… And against all odds, she has been standing in this Parisian sky.

Last night, my heart bled at the news, and this orange-grey cloud – flames from her heart, as the 19th century spire yielded to a raging fire that engulfed the forest – this nickname given to those 1300 oak trees that served as timber frame to support that huge slate roof.

Like millions of people around the world, I watched powerless, in disbelief, and heaved the following poem, as a tribute or way to cope with shock.

La forêt

Ô Notre Dame,
    ta forêt brûle, ton coeur en flammes!

Une forêt de chênes
         de cent mètres de long,
une forêt de chênes
         charpentée par des anges,
une forêt de chênes 
         anoblie par les âges;

toute une nuit orangée a dévoré ta flèche, ton coeur et
ta charpente -

une forêt de chênes,
         maison pour un bossu et son Esméralda...

toute une nuit d'horreur, pluie battante d'ardoises
retrouvées en poussière à l'issue 
                           d'un déluge -

une forêt de chênes au XXIe siècle toute 
                                      réduite en cendres,

ton coeur, ce cher poumon,
                     au plus proche des âmes.


©Nat Hall 2019

The Forest

 
Ô Notre Dame,
    your forest burns - your heart in flames!

A forest of oak trees
                long of a hundred yards,
a forest of oak trees
              carpented by angels,
a forest of oak trees
              enobled through ages;

it took one orange night to
devour your heart, spire and timber frame -

a forest of oak trees
once homed Esmeralda and her loving hunchback,

one single night of hell in
a deluge of slate as tiles turned into dust -

a forest of oak trees that neared
               a millenium now reduced in ashes.

Your heart, this dearest lung,
                     so close to all our souls.

© Nat Hall 2019

Photo credit to Le Monde for both images. Merci.

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