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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