Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

His statue by the shore

by Peter Godfrey

‘Do you know where I’d find firelighters?’
I showed him, earned his peering gratitude.

I made out, flustered, not to recognise him –
George, the boyish, square-jawed man

with wild grey hair and hollow cheeks.
We went the way of our respective baskets.

Later he was walking down the hill
carrying two plastic bags back into town.

I longed to join him, knew paths don’t cross twice
by chance – but held back, shy to break his step

and viewed him – some rare bird,
the real Mackay – across the road.

I’d seen him on the sea-front years before,
imagined him as always there,

as much of Stromness as the ferry sliding into port
or flagstones winding under Brinkie’s Brae.

A man who’d anchored on his island,
savoured every haar and voe,

drawn words like baked scones from the oven,
Brown, in the kitchen of his council house –

that frail man with the modest face
I’d never thought was stone.