Night. I'm watching still water
reflect yellow arc lights
shining on the locks.
Empty roads, concrete.
One tiny figure held mid-stride
darkens, scrolls magenta,
back to yellow. Blank.

Dawn comes swiftly
the other side of the world.
Look, the canal stretches off
into the mists. It 's hot.
The camera flicks containers
off the corner of the screen.
The water waits.

05:25:31 Miraflores: the sight
flowers until a superstructure
blocks the camera. Water boils,
a wake churns. The locks
are empty. You're there somewhere.
Turn: wave ten seconds
until the camera sees you;

stare back at the lens –
it's my eye in there.
We are not accepting requests
for angle changes of the camera.
The lighthouse shows its black side
and becomes invisible.
Nothing now but the Pacific.


Watch long enough and sooner or later
a rock will stretch and shake its wings

or a long neck break the skyline
and betray its granite-and-lichen disguise

mornings west of the bay, east in the evenings,
creatures of habit as much as my own flock

as much as the seal who hauls himself glistening
to the rocks after the main thrust of each tide

as much as the blue Land Rover that drives
to the dead end of the road for an hour mid-afternoon

as much as people like me who migrate as if our lives
depend on it, north, for the breeding season

no, for a moult at the end of the breeding season
to shed the racket of a year

then head back south, the silence of our new plumage
already frayed by the long journey home.


On holiday, I dream:
loud evenings I threw overboard years ago
wash up with weed in the strandline
on top of today's left shoe.
There is so much to worry about.
I sign myself Marian Silver.

It's the light. What do seals dream
beached on their rocks in sharp sun?
Do they dream fluid hints and glints
in the echo chamber of their sea?
Or do they lie on the bottom and dream
the deep focus colours of the land?

Down the single track road that staggers
round the mountain coast miles from anywhere,
a green asphalt tennis court juts out
over the sea with a car park for one.
This is not a dream. This
is European funding.

The road ends before it ends
under drifts of white sand.
A woman in wellingtons
is feeding her hens.
This is not a dream either, yet I wrote her
in a poem nine months ago.


A single track road
            so little used, drifts of white sand blank it off

A walk
            over machair to the sea; orchids and meadow rue

A wide concrete jetty
            ungrasped handrails and unworn steps

A steep scend
            up the channel, calming in the island’s lee

A sand bar
             across the narrows: turquoise, emerald

A narrow path
             nothing more than a sheep track into the hills

An old sore
              weeps a little even in a drying wind

A camera
              zipped into a pocket unused

A map

A bee


Having come this far no one wanted to turn back;
no one wanted to admit that wind and tide
were that much of an impossibility.
There was talk of a window in the weather,
windshifts and an early morning start.

It was the old trap. Having slogged up the Sound
and over the bar, maybe their next tack
would carry them clear; maybe they'd sight
something further west, Rockall, Atlantis.
Boats have foundered on the words 'this far'.

It's said that among Clan Ranald's warlike crew
they would set apart a shrewd and timid man
to be a teller of the waters. He'd stand by the helm
and reck the dark heart in the wind,
brave enough to signal caution.

            © Jane Routh 2004