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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, February 11, 2008

River poems

Deva/ Dea/ Dee - Sovereign Goddess of the Land

River in photo beneath the mist.

Here are three poems inspired by the river Dee (my local Galloway one - there are others). They are descriptions of actual places betwen her source in the hills and her union with the Solway Firth. 'Dee' has the meaning 'goddess' and she may well have been the 'sovereign goddess of the land' if local people had similar beliefs to the Irish 2000 + years ago. Physically she has shaped and created the land ever since she was born out of a glacier 15 000 years ago.

For images/ photos see:
http://www.gla.ac.uk/medicalgenetics/suplands.htm Loch Dee and hills- excellent site
http://www.orrnamestudy.com/images/short.jpg One of Bob's ancestors? Covenanter grave, Balmaghie
http://www.nwl.ac.uk/ih/nrfa/spatialinfo/Elevation/elevation080002.html Dee at Glenlochar coloured contours map
http://www.ushistoricalarchive.com/photochroms/2742.html crannog site small island in middle of loch
http://www.old-kirkcudbright.net/books/telford.htm Telford's bridge over Dee at Kirkcudbright
http://www.scottishradiance.com/light/light204.htm Little Ross lighthouse

Will find more.

Deva - On Dungeon Hill 13 June 2003

Listening to the stream as it runs
through granite pools
the fractured rock in great slabs
still marked by the ice.

Each pool has a different voice
the clear water cold even in summer heat
raging torrents with the rain
waterfalls spouting from the cliffs
the great Dungeon wall
tawny as a lion crouched
high over the silver flecked flowe.

Upturned bowl of sphagnum
resilient surface quaking with each step
a living, breathing, growing creature
still holding charcoal grains
the memory of hunters' fires.

The forest of the before times
wolf times, bear times, wild times
eagle and deer, beaver and boar
another forest then
no sitka in serried ranks, square cut and drained
then the forest stretched from hill to sea

Deva, how much have you known
how much do you recall?
Now you are bound, confined, constrained
your marshes drained and forests forgotten
yet still you flow, ever from the hills unto the sea.

Tracing your path, summoning the memories
of Loch Dee and Clatteringshaws,
the Otter pool and Loch Stroan where the railway ran
Hensol and the Ken, long deep loch an arrow pointed north
following its flight up each dammed step
once more unto the hills and each tribute paid
Polmaddie, the Deuch, even the Doon, by the hand of man
spills her waters towards the Solway now.

Onwards towards the twin towers
Balmaghie and Crossmichael reflect each in the other
Glenlochar and the Romans
Still march and clash their spears over the green fields
rich fields, the wealth of the land
your blackness slow uncoiling
hidden pearls- do they still gleam in your depths?

And the salmon, fewer now
but the geese return each autumn
yapping like dogs in the night
flying between the stars
above Archibald's grim castle
feasting all done, the walls are silent now.
Once you ran straight for the sea
your path marked by marshes and the witches' loch
The cauldron must return - so mote it be.

Poor Carlinwark, a shadow of her self
A green puddle left by the departure of our lady
As she found a new way to the sea.

Three bridges and the Grainyford
By Druim Cheate Edward Bruce fought and won
but he could not hold this land, your land.
Beneath another wall of hills
Screel, Bengairn, Bentudor
another dam, another brief surge of power
electricity sparking in the turbines and the wires
where once the salmon gathered in the deep pool
no more, no more.

Beyond Telford's bridge salt water mingles
with your sweetness, the race is nearly run
back and forth the tides flow
echoing the moon
and the mud banks stretching from Cutherbert's kirk
to the Ross's ever blinking eye.

Here you fall at last into Solway's embrace
the great firth accepting your offering
while above the clouds sail
a great fleet of grey and white ships of the sky
to pour their cargoes of rain
upon the hills wherein your are ever renewed
and reborn.

Dea -Threave Castle Observation Hide - Autumn 2003

At dusk and dawn, the raucous chorus of a crowd of geese
Carries clear across the marshes from the Dee
Heard even in town, where street lights shine at night
Orange daubs against the blackness of the starry sky.

Today the clouds are sunk heavy on the hills
Pressing close upon Bengairn
Neilson's pyramid holds the horizon
Against the encroaching grey of Galloway
Autumn has rusted the trees
Wreathes of oak leaves
Like damp russet confetti
Lie scattered on the path.

The earth is dry along its edge
The river low between the Stepping Stones
The clouds promise rain
Hanging in ragged sheets above the fields
Their summer green flecked with yellow now
Reeds rustle before a breath of wind
Which carries the plaintive peewits
Of lapwings across the river's murmuring.

Now a buzzard, briefly majestic as an eagle
Floats down to pause upon a leafless tree
Casting the lapwings up like a plume of smoke
They hover hesitant, wheel and circle
The buzzard lifts its tawny wings
They beat a few strokes, then it is gone
Letting the lapwings return
To their contemplation of the river.

Finally the expected, anticipated sound
On creaking, rusted wings
Making and unmaking patterns in the air
Raggedly they jostle and spiral round
The turning of the year, confirming with their cries
The cycle of the seasons
As the geese descend once more
To graze beside the Dee.

Dee- Lamb Island - June 2003

Here Dee glides between three islands and the fields
white and black of cattle against green grass
white on black and orange billed
against silvered blue reflections
a solitary oyster catcher paused on a rock
a reminder of the sea.

A cow and brown calf slowly circle
between buttercups and other yellow flowers
a swaying island of water weeds
entering the flow their hooves find the stones
framed by the fractal leaves of an oak tree
hanging motionless, moss drying on the bark
insect haze dances over the river
amongst the reflections of sky and trees
almost still, shimmering.

Trees and sky broken open as a cormorant dives
ripples circling ever outward
waiting for black head to re-emerge
and now a heron follows the ripples rush
shadowing the cormorant
back and forth the heron's heavy flight
crossing and re-crossing from shore to shore
briefest glint of silver, the cormorant holds a fish
a fleeting moment of triumph and then
takes wing leaving the heron in its wake.

Here Dee takes her final twisting turns towards the sea
here the path ends
one bridge stands alone, its partner gone
one bridge, corroding gently
an iron trough on sandstone pillars
a tree grows between the stones
grass masks the metal, greening the grey girders
no whisps of steam, no scent of oil and smoke
no burning coals to fall like tiny blazing comets
into the black waters.

The single line of gleaming rails is gone
the baulks of sleeping timber dark with creosote
the fractured grey ballast - all lifted now
in their stead the whispering roar
of rubber on asphalt
of traffic ever hurrying, hurtling along the road
faster and faster, never ceasing, even in the night
juggernauts grind in a blaze of light
racing each other towards distant destinations
against deadlines and paper thin profit margins
as overhead a jet fighter banks
brief screeching flight endlessly rehearsing
preparing for another desert war
whilst beyond the tree lined horizon
a grey plume of smoke rises.

At Druim Cheate beside the Grainy Ford
Edward Bruce's soldiers fought the men of Galloway
and burnt the Isle of Threave
scene of other battles, nameless wars
between namless warriors, blood spilt into the black waters
forgotten conflicts with outcomes hidden in place name patterns
Threave and Netherhall, Aireland, Slagnaw
Bridge of Dee and Balmaghie
Welsh and Anglo-Saxon, Gaelic and Norse
English and Scots, layers of languages mark the land.

Cormack's chapel by Dildawn - did an Irish saint
ever break his hard bread and sip his bitter wine
murmuring Latin translations of Greek and Hebrew words
beside the pagan Dee?


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