A Seat at Cailleach Farm
by Sharon Black
She lumbers over marsh and machair –
coat tails flapping, stick feeling the way.
Ewes huddle by a five-bar gate.
An empty bucket rattles on a post.
The farmer’s truck is absent.
The pier is empty, the dirt track too.
Only the gulls bear witness as they curve
above the fields, the pebbled yard
with its wooden bench, a brass plaque
Don’t cover me in winter
while the barn owl’s still roosting,
the white heart of its face
dipped to its chest. Let me
be adrift in a bog of flag irises,
sun in my throat
and earth in my voice. Let me
take it all in, in huge gulps
then in sips. Let me lift the soft bright wings
of darkness to my lips.
She walks and walks, her basket
spilling boulders that roll
to the sea, boulders big enough
to land a boat on, build a home.
On they tumble: basalt walkways,
cliffs of gneiss and tuff, granite columns
landing upright in the fields. From time to time
she takes a chisel
and tames a fallen rock in the image
of a hare, gannet, weasel, otter, eel.
At the bay, she tips the remnants of her cargo
into the Atlantic: stepping stones
that will be named for islands
when the animals break free.
Note: In Gaelic mythology, the Cailleach ('old woman’) is a creator deity as well as a destructive Storm Hag.