Wednesday 8 November 2023

The Winds of Fethaland

Fethaland is far from here:

We took the long road
From the sea-free net savvy middle-lands
The the furthest point
Of what there they call the Main Land.

Spelling each other on the weird ways
Of the modern road system
To a welcome from friend-strangers:
A homely house in grey-green Glasgow.

& on, on to The Flower of Scotland
The granite grey ford-town
Where big boats with cranes
Waited in the harbour for their summons to the sea-fields.

Fields to be ploughed on our behalf
By M.V Hjaltland to Shetland
Through the guillemot’s kitchen
Our fellow travelers, fulmars.

While beneath us, unseen
We passed the black muds that will
Some day be shining stones
On a distant, future shore.

Through the undark night
We passed peaceful Fair Isle
Saw, in a sleepy simmer-dim
Dark cliffs, a lit house, through window glass.

Morning & into the muddy bay of the Sword Hilt Isle
A land of fiddle players & sheep
Otter-people, skua-people, red throated diver-people,
More Norse than Scot, Sea-People.

Up shag haunted voe & merlin haunted moor
A winding road, a long road
The last road, to the final station, with
Winter’s peewits & dunlin already arriving.

This is not a path followed
By many footfalls in these fast days
But we delight in rocky shores
& their inhabitants, past & present.

Those lonely hills of sedge-heather
Were once pleasant pasture
& the small round stone houses
Of the ancient people may still be seen.

They lived well here in their time
With good grain, kale & kine
But even older secrets & wonders
Pass beneath our feet.

From the polished Dalriadan moine
We hike over onto the glooming basement
The dark, blocky castles & spires
Of mythical, primal, pre-cambrianity.

The view from Raven’s window:
Black framed, mad-jagged
By beserker storm waves of The Western Sea
A view of emptiness all the way to the North Pole.

That’s not a place where Raven wants to go
For that is the land of death
& he loves life & in their own way
He & his wife celebrate its richness.

So we reached the last bastion of our journey
From Mercia to the High Lands, Isle Lands
& beyond, believing that we can’t get much further
From the ugliness, waste & hubris left behind us.

But even here, the piratic bonxie, the curlew
The kittiwake & the common-as-muck
Not so common, common gull
Could soon be gone from these plastic speckled shores.

& even here that the ever-so smart signals
Of the self-conscious otherworld
Still illuminate the screen tells all
Or would, because I switched it off.

No GPS map, no texts or trendy kennings
From the country of the meme-people,
We are alone with the power of this place
& it is more real than they are.

& we are neither lost nor last, nor can we ever be
Like the tern or the turnstone
We can find our way in this world
& it has lead us here, to the fat winds of Fethaland.


I have used kennings based on the origin of place names throughout the poem. eg. Shetland= Hjaltland=Sword Hilt Land; Glasgow=grey-green; Fethaland=Fat-Land.

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