Farm Near a Bend in River Tummel
There was a shed here once. If you look close,
you can see grass ghosting its outline.
Any tool the day required could be found here.
Tack, as well: bits, bridles, a harness or two.
Never mind weather; some days I think decades
of dad’s swearing finally brought it down,
his voice burning beams like fire. Rust crumbling
from the ledges didn’t help. Neither did I,
backing the Landini loader against its worst wall.
My brother and I once set a drowned ewe inside —
it was our fault — we’d left a gate open. Never told
dad. He found out, of course. But that was the day
he got word his father died up north, a fall down
stone stairs along a Stornoway quay.
Look: there’s two planks left from the door.
You can still make out where the lock used to be.
In Your North Sea Dream
Leave your flat, deep in the city,
take the longest loop around the harbor, study
the day’s early shipping: hulks making for docks,
inbound from the Aberdeen–Lerwick run,
the clang of freight and foghorn, shouts of dock
men, shunted cargo, the groan of diesel.
Turn back down Guild to the rail
station and forget for a moment what the harbor
may mean, how it treads your mind like the past,
as you search destinations that would carry you
on some undulant, overland pace far out of the city.
Reach the open area of grass
along River Dee, where your father drifted
in drunken sleep after endless days at the quarry.
The spot is vacant now, trimmed green and perfect.
Consider the day’s final departures—
downcountry to Dundee, or inland to some nether
loch. How once urgent tickets, punched and castoff,
fly in gusting drafts of wind, a sound now louder
than your steps retracing the sea.
Johnshaven at the Edge of Summer
And the prows of fishing boats
manned by single souls turn seaward
either side of the quay, down slipways
that bow into water, sounds of early surf
soft enough to still voices of day idlers
on Dock Street. Signposts with overwrought
silhouettes warn of drop-offs and high
tides that cloak the cold clutch of deep
channels. Creels, stacked tight and tall,
bastion the inlet, edge the wall like ferry
passengers who fear restless tides. Windows
parse the gaining sun into pale reflections
on Fore Street that seams the shoreline
north where the earth rises in a fertile climb.
Headed back uptown,
a young woman steps through a red door
behind The Ship Hotel, a barmaid or cook,
whose eyes catch me as I pass. Before her gaze
I slow my footsteps—one more bungling
foreigner. She offers her laugh, turns away, flings
the fiery arc of her cigarette toward a No
Footway sign. Her trade the music of her life,
she closes the red door behind her, a dim
light from inside whitening her shoulders.
About the Poet:
Jeffrey Alfier won the 2014 Kithara Book Prize for his poetry collection, Idyll for a Vanishing River (Glass Lyre Press, 2013). He is also author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press, 2013) and The Storm Petrel – Ireland Poems (Grayson Books, 2014). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern Poetry Review, Hiram Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Louisiana Review.