The Old Woman of the Moors Returns the Call

by Neile Graham

—travels from the Hebrides to Haida Gwaii—

She would say she knows this shore
—she knows shore—
but here the sea stacks are raw,
toothing up
with their harum scarum fringe of trees.
Sky is tender and familiarly
full of rain—the weather is slow, but that is all:
the standing crowd are trees
thick in no arrangement
—denser, fuller, no moor between—
so tall...taller than old Lewis' hills.
The beach-landed ones are
the colour of stone, weather-rubbed
—but not stone. Trees—

how did she think she could come here?

She feels so small and old, so round
—smoothed, so tamed—
what's with all these trees?
Folk here build with wood, buildings rise
then fall to rot—then are built anew.
At home they know
how to build one thing for thousands
of years. Carve stone, not wood.
They know what a cairn is.
Most rocks here are so small she couldn't
stand one up on a bet.
They're raw, so fresh enough
to cut herself on.
Here the abundance grows
and grows. Burgeoning. Boiling with growth.
Blasting moss leaves needles cones, seeds bursting—

It's enough to make an old woman
swim the long way home
till she finds her low islands
—the slow soft rolling green—
O she goes back to lay herself down
again on the empty old moors.
—Here there is rest—
despite the restless
weather. Unceasing waves,
rocky shores, not fir-ed but furred.
Land speaks more carefully here,
greenly blanketing the history
rampaging deep inside its ancient peace—

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