Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

At the end of the day

by Chris Foxall

If you’d never been to the island
you would never know
how the ancient volcanic rock
thrusts vertical through the earth
at the head of the peninsula,
how the houses that stand
on this knuckle end of land
between the open moor and the sea,
lean their white-washed stones into winds
that can whip the colour from your hair,
how March storms will tumble lambs
into corners of fields
heaping cotton wool leaves
into drifts against the walls.
How the high moor beyond Beinn Halistra
is always silent.
If you’d never slept on the island
you would never know how
on a winter’s morning,
the sea will nudge through open windows
coating your pillow in a breathing of salt,
how across Loch Snizort
dawn drops into the hollows between the hills
with a fullness of molten silver,
how the early morning ferry from Innse Gall
ripples out from the mist
trailing an arc of wake
that breaches Rubha Bhatairnis.
How, on days of fair winds and blue skies
your shadow is somehow lighter.
If you’d never embraced the island
you would never know how
on a summer’s evening,
the Ascribs hang in the twilight
suspended above the ocean, strung out
like ebony beads over a mirror
and how, at the end of the day, the ocean bleeds
into the bay below Trumpan
scattering bleached bones of remembrance
along the shore.
All these things you would never know
if you’d never been to the island.