Bennachie to Clachnaben

Paps I’d laud in song and story
across the Mearns and the Garioch:
above the snowline, through the haar,
cries on to t’other, Are you there? –
Bennachie to Clachnaben
and likewise echoed back again;
stretched along the lazy beds,
crowns of buzzards round their heads,
where Don and Dee each follow courses
bundled over sheer drops harsh as
winter north-northeasters blown
past Fair Isle to our frost-bound lawn.
Where Beaker people warred with Picts
and Celts’ and Romans’ gore was mixed,
history’s a page some march on
and others scratch around the margin
voicelessly in cultic runes
that calcify on standing stones –
an age usurped by Christ and Lug
still keeping watch with every crag.
The blood-red of the painted field –
vain tribute to the gods that failed –
dilutes to present greeny-gray
(the word glas glosses either way),
and where the hulking tors might end
and city start nae sailors kennt
in gurly waters, or couldna dee
without the sight of you at sea:
skyline savage as the grin
of the final grey wolf hunted down!
Savage Piranesi dungeons
of the city’s close-drawn confines!
through which shrills the sharp sea breeze
and, mourning for their failed embrace,
clean as a hawk’s beak snapping bone,
Bennachie’s cry to Clachnaben.

uncollected poem, © David Wheatley 2015, used by permission of the author

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