Northwords Now

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The Borrowed Days

by Jennifer Morag Henderson

We are living in the Borrowed Days, the Old Days
an extended month, lending extra time –
the Dangerous Days, shaping the year.

The month of storms, the Winter Faoilteach
the month of wolves, circling nearer and near
scenting the stockpiled foodstores.

They say the Borrowed Days need storms –
welcome these days, embrace them,
the lockdown sun, green shoots of dying elm.

Half-green, half-bare, the wind moves the trees
diseased branches cage the sun
bar the light that comes down to us

The blossom snows around us
blooms pile up in birdsong drifts
these three days, and they were ill:

The first day was air, pure and clear, the easy breath.
The second day, that sun, bright and high; the moon, its counterpart, full and near.
The third day was cold in the shadows.

We are living in the Borrowed Days
the lengthening month
a piece of time snatched from the larger plan

the last days without knowledge
of the future, what weather will take over from
this locked moment.

Poet’s notes: there are a handful of days in February, or in March, that in old folklore are called the ‘Borrowed Days’. There are many old rhymes about the Borrowed Days, and how the events and weather of these days can shape the rest of the year. ‘Faoilteach’ is Scottish Gaelic, and it can variously mean different things relating to this part of the calendar, but has its roots in the word for ‘wolf’. The ‘Daft Days’ are the days between Christmas and New Year. Dutch Elm Disease has been around for a long time now, but has really only just reached the Highlands.

Northwords Now acknowledges the vital support of Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
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