Northwords Now Issue 39

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Amazon Woman

by Pip Osmond-Williams

There is silence on these islands now,
save for the skua call. Brief are the days
and still I miss the parliament, harsh
soil taunted by the lore of trees, blood
yolk of the gannet’s bed, salt spill
from the puffin kill, the rancid stench
of flesh in cleits. All the blind and
gut reminders of a life, lives,
what it is to be still living.

In purple mornings
with earth’s funeral smoke
curling up the crags of Boreray,
I picture barefoot circles of blackhouse girls,
their linen dresses stitched with blood,
running from the moon-mouthed boys,
split lips licked in mustard and salt.
Sometimes I follow them,
try to tuck their splintered skin
into the curves and folds of Gleann Mor,
try to warn them of the smaller wars,
of love lodged under the scalloped edge,
mother tongues in the mouths of caves,
loss breathing life into different shapes:
the bell curve of a diving bird,
the space of the wave between.
There are places that I will never know.
They left with backs and shoulders
of flint and stone on the Harebell
away from Oiseval.  

I use my time wisely now.
I pluck honeysuckle from rocks
to learn about exposure. I have
found new ways to tolerate salt.
I think of them often, often.
Some nights I wake, believing that I
have only dreamed the mountain still.  
Skuas take flight, diving in ribbons
through the sky’s white line,
the scavenge for wreckage of
forgotten life, some small secular
devotion to the day, another day.