Silver Darlings

Yin calm summer night a lang time ago
three Scots and a Pole skimmed out of the bay,
over a fast fading silvery sheen
intae the last o' the languid day.

Amid scraiching gulls, and echoes that whispered
from heughs that were thick with bracken and whuns,
they started tae jig on the likeliest mark:
the inside edge o' the main tidal runs.

And out o' the briny from deep underneath,
all four o' them started to haul,
string after stringful o' glittering fish
unhooked with a flick before their long fall -

herring that twisted and mackerel that flashed -
their last sacrifice for their mother shoal.
Unlamented, they danced on demented,
down to the floor o' the motionless boat.

The sun looming red then, suddenly fell,
full intae the void beyond the green sweep
o' Ireland's fields and Ireland's hills,
whose shadows stole up in a single leap.

And over the skin o' the fish teeming tide
a scattered armada came sliding,
southwards from Logan, some young and some old,
who knew where the herring were hiding.

The darkening sea seemed to merge with the sky,
as they cut through the thickening dusk,
all ready with rods, or handlines and hooks,
they'd dressed in the feathers o' fish maddened gulls.

And the blood o' herring spattered and spilled
amongst the ghosts o' fishermen gone,
and mingled then with the blood of men,
whose faces were splashed and fingers were torn -

and each for a moment was moved to recall
the loved ones of old who'd never returned,
to wives and children in much harder times -
as southwards they drifted away on the flood.

The silent sea cunningly funnelled them south,
down under Crammag's pulsing white eye,
where shadows swept soundlessly round and round,
as the last o' the vanishing daylight died.

While over the channel soon could be seen,
several miniature fans of white.
One by one they appeared here and there,
all flashing their warnings intae the night.

So, showered in constellations o' scales
they hauled in their lines and boxed up their fish,
and skippers at last directed their craft,
northwards beneath the black and gold cliffs,

by dark Laggantulloch's perilous point,
northwards against the currents that curved,
driving deep furrows and weaving bright stars
intae their trail o' vague churning surf.

And round by the Gounies' old sunken ship,
northwards across the wide Clanyard bay
they steered by mere starlight, they steered for home,
and landed in darkness in Port Logan bay.

Where under the tower - bereft of its bell -
perched on its bank o' weel battered stanes,
they anchored or swiftly trailered their boats,
while locals stood waiting with bags and plates.

A few dozen here and a few dozen there;
some went for barter and some went for pence,
as boxes of herring and mackerel were sold
'til villages nearby and far were fed.

25 10 17

by jim hogg

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