Robin Robertson

1955 / Scone

Under Beinn Ruadhainn

For Andrew O'Hagan
Three moons in the sky
the night they found him
drowned in Sawtan's Bog;
just his cap, sitting there
and his wee fat hands poking out.
It was no loss
to the village, I told them
next morning,
and the villagers agreed.
Horn-daft, he was,
havering and glaikit
and scaring the children.
I mind that time
he picked up a mouse
and ate it, quick,
in two mouthfuls;
set the tail aside
on the ground
like a cocktail stick.

I used her well, after that,
his Jennie,
still in her widow's weeds,
gilping into her
whenever I could,
in the barn or the boathouse
or off in the fields.
She slipped two or three out at least,
and sank each one in a lobster creel.
Her head was away
by the end, as mad as her man
and no good to me.
She sleeps now
under Beinn Ruadhainn, her face
covered in ivy,
scab, and sticky-willow.

The dreams came then.
Last night, the burning loch,
so full of bairns
they bobbed to the surface
with their hair on fire;
black snow; fingers
coming through the floorboards;
rain like razor blades;
the foosty-faced man,
there at every corner,
hands furred with grey-mould.
And her, as always,
star-naked, hatching
in the herring-nets.
The last I remember
was my body being driven
with sticks through the town
to Sawtan's Brae, and hanged.

I broke from sleep and sat up sweating,
dream-fleyed in the dark.
I groped around for the matches
and the matches were put in my hand.
85 Total read