Image by Alan Young

Crossing the Loch

Crossing the Loch

Remember how we rowed toward the cottage
on the sickle-shaped bay,
that one night after the pub
loosed us through its swinging doors
and we pushed across the shingle
till water lipped the sides
as though the loch mouthed 'boat'?

I forget who rowed. Our jokes hushed.
The oars' splash, creak, and the spill
of the loch reached long into the night
Out in the race I was scared:
the cold shawl of breeze,
and hunched hills; what the water held
of deadheads, ticking nuclear hulls.

Who rowed, and who kept their peace?
Who hauled salt-air and stars
deep into their lungs, were not reassured;
and who first noticed the loch's
phosphorescence, so, like a twittering nest
washed from the rushes, an astonished
small boat of saints, we watched water shine
on our fingers and oars,
the magic dart of our bow wave?

It was surely foolhardy, such a broad loch, a tide,
but we live - and even have children
to women and men we had yet to meet
that night we set out, calling our own
the sky and salt-water, wounded hills
dark-starred by blaeberries, the glimmering anklets
we wore in the shallows
as we shipped oars and jumped,
to draw the boat safe, high at the cottage shore.


from Jizzen (Picador, 1999), copyright © Kathleen Jamie 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Recordings

Kathleen Jamie Reading her own poems

1View from the Cliffs

2The Leaving of an Island

3Black Spiders

4Peter the Rock

5Julian of Norwich

6The Way We Live

7From <i>The Autonomous Region</i>

8The Queen of Sheba

9Child with Pillar Box and Bin Bags

10Wee Wifey

11Perfect Day

12Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead

13Outreach

14Arraheids

15Hand Relief

16Swallows and Swifts

17The Sea-house

18Rooms

19Skeins o Geese

20From Ultrasound: Ultrasound, Thaw, Bairnsang, Prayer

21The Tay Moses

22Crossing the Loch

23The Graduates

24Mrs McKellar, her martyrdom

25Bonaly

26Lochan

27Rhododendrons

28The Well at the Broch of Gurness

29St Bride's

30Bolus

31Meadowsweet

32Pipistrelles

33The hill-track (Frogs)

34The Wishing Tree

Books by Kathleen Jamie