Poem introduction

For more than twenty years, I have lived at least part of the time in Orkney. Crossing the Pentland Firth, however, can be very unpleasant, and on one horribly rough crossing, I found myself asking 'Why do I want to live in this place?' This poem is the answer.

Orkney/ This Life

It is big sky and its changes,
the sea all round and the waters within.
It is the way sea and sky
work off each other constantly,
like people meeting in Alfred Street,
each face coming away with a hint
of the other's face pressed in it.
It is the way a week-long gale
ends, and folk emerge to hear
a single bird cry way high up.

It is the way you lean to me,
the way I lean to you, as if
we are each other's prevailing;
how we connect along our shores,
the way we are tidal islands,
joined for hours then inaccessible,
I'll go for that, and smile when I
pick sand off myself in the shower.

It is the way Scotland looks to the South,
the way we enter friends' houses
to leave what we came with, or flick
the kettle's switch and wait.
This is where I want to live,
close to where the heart gives out,
ruined, perfected, an empty arch against the sky
where birds fly through instead of prayers,
while in Hoy Sound the ferry's engines thrum
this life this life this life.


Andrew Greig

Andrew Greig Reading from his Poems

1A Man is Driving

2In the Tool Shed

3The Maid and I from "A Flame in Your Heart

4Shaken Awake

5Visiting Tim

6Say It Straight

7Back Again

8Interlude on Mustagh Tower

9Entering Askole


11Still "from "Western Swing"


13An Intermission

14Sister/Into the Drylands

15Norman's Goodnight

16Orkney/This Life

17Edinburgh Encounter

18Married Love

19A Long Shot


21The Natural Order

22This Pilgrimage

23The Tidal Pools of Fife

24The Loch of the Green Corrie

25Tom Ban Mhor

26A Signing Off