Northwords Now Issue 37

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Pictish

by Stewart Sanderson

Listen to the wind
where this language was –
the whisper as it passes
through the long
grass at St. Vigeans;
the leaves at Aberlemno.

Read on past the pause
where its king list
ebbs away into the waters
of a new tongue: so the river
Ewe runs downhill
towards its sea loch.

Reach out and touch
the topsoil to which
its syllables remain
attached: an anchor
lodged in sand long after
the ship has rotted.

Throw one last log onto
the fire as you pronounce
their names – Nechtan and Brude,
Drostan and Drest – then let
them blend like smoke does
with the midnight air.