Robin Robertson Poetry based work - 'At Roan Head' at Bankside gallery part of ' Splash' 04.07.18
'You'd know her house by the drawn blinds - by the cormorants pitched on the boundary wall, the black crosses of their wings hung out to dry. You'd tell it by the quicken and the pine that hid it from the sea and from the brief light of the sun, and by Aonghas the collie, lying at the door where he died: a rack of bones like a sprung trap.
A fork of barnacle geese came over, with that slow squeak of rusty saws. The bitter sea's complaining pull and roll; a whicker of pigeons, lifting in the wood.
She'd had four sons, I knew that well enough, and each one wrong. All born blind, they say, slack-jawed and simple, web-footed, rickety as sticks. Beautiful faces, I'm told, though blank as air. Someone saw them once, outside, hirpling down to the shore, chittering like rats, and said they were fine swimmers, but I would have guessed at that.
Her husband left her: said they couldn't be his, they were more fish than human, said they were beglamoured, and searched their skin for the showing marks.
For years she tended each difficult flame: their tight, flickering bodies. Each night she closed the scales of their eyes to smoor the fire.
Until he came again, that last time, thick with drink, saying he'd had enough of this, all this witchery, and made them stand in a row by their beds, twitching. Their hands flapped; herring-eyes rolled in their heads. He went along the line relaxing them one after another with a small knife.
It's said she goes out every night to lay blankets on the graves to keep them warm. It would put the heart across you, all that grief.
There was an otter worrying in the leaves, a heron loping slow over the water when I came at scraich of day, back to her door.
She'd hung four stones in a necklace, wore four rings on the hand that led me past the room with four small candles burning which she called ‘the room of rain'. Milky smoke poured up from the grate like a waterfall in reverse and she said my name and it was the only thing and the last thing that she said.
She gave me a skylark's egg in a bed of frost; gave me twists of my four sons' hair; gave me her husband's head in a wooden box. Then she gave me the sealskin, and I put it on.' Robin Robertson - Poet