I love this poem. I carried and shared it on Poem in your Pocket Day on April 18, soon after we decided to come here this summer. The author lived for a time on Rousay, a small island off Orkney’s Mainland.

It’s a bit fanciful, a bit magical – and it evokes the mood of this place so very well.

Orkney Interior

by Ian Hamilton Finlay

Doing what the moon says, he shifts his chair
Closer to the stove and stokes it up
With the very best fuel, a mixture of dried fish
And tobacco he keeps in a bucket with crabs

Too small to eat. One raises its pincer
As if to seize hold of the crescent moon
On the calendar which is almost like a zodiac
With inexplicable and pallid blanks. Meanwhile

A lobster is crawling towards the clever
Bait that is set inside the clock
On the shelf by the wireless—an inherited dried fish
Soaked in whisky and carefully trimmed

With potato flowers from the Golden Wonders
The old man grows inside his ears.
Click! goes the clock-lid, and the unfortunate lobster
Finds itself a prisoner inside the clock,

An adapted cuckoo-clock. It shows no hours, only
Tides and moons and is fitted out
With two little saucers, one of salt and one of water
For the lobster to live on while, each quarter-tide,

It must stick its head through the tiny trapdoor
Meant for the cuckoo. It will be trained to read
The broken barometer and wave its whiskers
To Scottish Dance Music, till it grows too old.

Then the old man will have to catch himself another lobster.
Meanwhile he is happy and takes the clock
Down to the sea. He stands and oils it
In a little rock pool that reflects the moon.

IMG_8776 (2)

The Orkneys seem to inspire poetry. The islands’ most famous son, the poet George Mackay Brown lived almost his entire life in the town of Stromness. He found much to write about there. We stayed in Stromness for a couple of days; I can see how a person might not want to leave.

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About lornaofarabia

I am a teacher from Medford, Oregon. I currently live and work in Bangkok, Thailand.
This entry was posted in Elsewhere, Islands and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Inspiration

  1. blkleinh says:

    Thank you Lorna, it is wonderful and wonder-filled. I have been reading your posts pretty regularly as you travel and I am green with envy but so happy for you. I love your images and your thoughts! Becky in Medford

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