Poem introduction

Most people have heard of the island of St. Kilda which is the outermost of the outer Hebrides because they think of it as a place of asylum - as such a lonely place. But for that reason everybody goes there so it isn't. If you're looking for asylum in the Hebrides you should go to the innermost of the inner Hebrides because no one else bothers. And this was a poem written for a friend who said she would never fall in love again and this island struck me as a good place to go if you were ever looking to revivify that susceptibility.



When the day comes, as the day surely must,
when it is asked of you, and you refuse
to take that lover's wound again, that cup
of emptiness that is our one completion,

I'd say go here, maybe, to our unsung
innermost isle: Kilda's antithesis,
yet still with its own tiny stubborn anthem,
its yellow milkwort and its stunted kye.

Leaving the motherland by a two-car raft,
the littlest of the fleet, you cross the minch
to find yourself, if anything, now deeper
in her arms than ever; sharing her breath,

watching the red vans sliding silently
between her hills. In such intimate exile,
who'd believe the burn behind the house
the straitened ocean written on the map?

Here, beside the fordable Atlantic,
reborn into a secret candidacy,
the fontanelles reopen one by one
in the palms, then the breastbone and the brow,

aching at the shearwater's wail, the rowan
that falls beyond all seasons. One morning
you hover on the threshold, knowing for certain
the first touch of the light will finish you.

From Landing Light, (Faber & Faber, 2003), copyright © Don Paterson 2003, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.


Buy album £0.00

1Nil Nil



4An Elliptical Stylus

5Sunset, Visingso

6The Eyes



9On Going to meet a Zen master...


11The Lover

12God's Gift to Women


14A Private Bottling

1511:00 Baldova

16The Scale of Intensity




20The Thread

21Waking with Russell

22St. Brides: Sea-Mail

23The Hunt

24The Wreck

25Letter to the Twins


27The Fraud

28Sliding on Loch Ogil

29Zen Sang at Dayligaun

30The Landing

31The White Lie