Though born in Edinburgh, I spent much of my twenties and thirties drifting here and there across the globe, all very pleasurably. It wasn't until I stood in the Calvinist grip of a Scottish winter?s afternoon that I at last accepted my Scottishness. Since then I have rejoiced in it!

Near Linton Burnfoot

Tarred roads, metal cattle-grids and wheel tracks mesh

so tightly no land can escape. Tractor ruts

cut deep into the grass to cross and double-stitch

the fields together. Where the high ground pushes upwards,

pylons rigid with electricity stand guard

upon the hills. Bridges staple running water,

lines of fence-posts nail the valley sides in place.


Rain and ploughed mud. Rooks’ cries claw the air,

a banshee trapped in corrugated iron shrieks

to be released. Trees grasp at nothing,

and let go. It is a scene a child has painted,

splashing colours on sodden paper:

his carelessness might tear a mountainside apart.


Shingle being ground to nothing on the river-bed,

the clouds’ silence soaking into the hills –

these are secrets I dare not tell

even to myself. They give weight

to every moment of my life.

from Histories Of Desire (Bloodaxe, 1995), © Ron Butlin 1995, used by permission of the author

Ron Butlin in the Poetry Store

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