This Windy Place

This windy place with its 
strong grey end-on-houses 
shouldering the water and the 
space of this Atlantic gives us 
a stony welcome and clean - 
the streets scrubbed look 
not even worn, and the well-used 
pubs speak of bums and voices 
over years of yarns and laughter.

We crossed the water too fast
in a clinical ship all gleaming
a new affront to this
old clutching place with its
toughnesses - but the forbidding
bank of Hoy
sheer from the sea with its
massive planes of cliff and
vertical chimneys

frowned on our arrival 
as the cloud like smoke was 
sucked up over its 
unforgiving edge - the dense 
blackness of it was concentrated 
on us bleak and staggering

weighty with age and
a strong root since the beginning -
we go there on a paltry Friday to
place our feet timidly
on the island that bears these
towering faces of rock:
teeth set against assault
unyielding to any storm

(we are made small 
in its shadow).

With our arms wrapped 
around each other in our 
sleepy waking moment this 
morning, the strength and soft 
warmth of his body so touching 
breathing close, it is us - 
our feather-lives drifting against 
that rock -
that makes it live - without us 
it cannot see itself

and against all the
wind and parching sun, the high
shelves of our lives and 
low ditches, the mud, the
scraping fingernails, bursting
heart and straining veins -
do we win by travelling - by
the next sight
our eyes drink -
by slaking our thirst
on experience?

If I could touch the
coldness of that rock and feel it
leech my heat until my
fingers freeze -
I still won't know -

and so I walk these 
fitted paving stones, hand- 
and think on our excursions 
this one week 
and know I breathe, I live 
by moving and by being moved: 
fragile and 
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