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A reading of poems relating to the Isles written and read by Kenneth Steven at the Isles Come To Sudbury event on the 14th November 2009
Presented by permission of Kenneth Steven
Island Copyright Â© Kenneth Steven, 2009
I remember what it was like to barefoot that house
Wood rooms bleached by light. Days were new voyages, journeys,
Coming home a pouring out of stories and of starfish.
The sun never died completely in the night,
The skies just turned luminous, the wind
Tugged at the strings in the grass like a hand
In a harp. I did not sleep, too glad to listen by a window
To the sorrow sounds of the birds
As they swept down in skeins, and rose again, celebrating
All that was summer. I did not sleep, the weight of school
Behind and before too great to waste a grain of this.
One four in the morning at first larksong I went west over the dunes,
Broke down running onto three miles of white shell sand, and stood.
A wave curled and silked the shore in a single seamless breath.
I went naked into the water, ran deep into a green
Through which I was translucent. I rejoiced
In something I could not name; I celebrated a wonder
Too huge to hold. I trailed home, slow and golden,
Dried by the sunlight.
The Small Giant Copyright Â© Kenneth Steven, 2009
The otter is ninety percent water
Ten percent God
This is a mastery
We have not fathomed in a million years
I saw one once, off the teeth of western Scotland
Playing games with the Atlantic -
Three feet of gymnastics
Taking on an ocean.
Iona Copyright Â© Kenneth Steven, 2009
Is this place really nearer to God?
Is the wall thin between our whispers
And his listening? I only know
The world grows less and less -
Here what matters is conquering the wind,
Coming home dryshod, getting the fire lit.
I am not sure whether there is no time here
Or more time, whether the light is stronger
Or just easier to see. That is why
I keep returning, thirsty, to this place
That is older than my understanding,
Younger than my broken spirit.
The Music Copyright Â© Kenneth Steven, 2009
He got his tunes that way;
He heard them,
As though they were edges of wind,
As if he saw the notes
In the loud rattle of the storm,
In the darkness â€“ coming out of nothing.
He listened for them, as though they were bees
In ones and twos to begin with,
Then a swarm, a black net, a mist.
He had to catch them in the bow of his fiddle,
He had to find them before they passed,
Were gone and lost forever.
Where did they come from, those notes?
It was as though they had been sent to find him
Through the rampaging of Atlantic gales,
Or else had blown off course
Like a ship's cargo, like a pirate treasure hold,
Had spilled onto St Kilda, into his hands,
Into the fiddle,
Till it was filled brimful.
He wrote none of them down.
He caught them when they came;
He caught them in the net of his listening,
Recognised and remembered them,
Stored them in his head as the others
Stored fish and birds for winter.
They lay in the dark of his head
Like gold in the depths of a cave.
They died with him too
The day his eyes glazed and their light
Failed and faded for ever. The tunes were blown out
And back into the wind.
Hebrides Copyright Â©Kenneth Steven, 2009
This shattered place, this place of fragments,
A play of wind and sea and light,
Shifting always, becoming and diminishing;
Out of nowhere the full brightness of morning
Blown away, buried and lost.
And yet, if you have faith, if you wait long enough,
There will be the miracle of an otter
Turning water into somersaults;
The jet blackness of a loch brought back to life
By the sudden touch of sun.
But you will take nothing home with you
Save your own changedness,
And this wind that will awaken you
Sometimes, all your life, yearning to return.
More from Kenneth Steven is available at www.kennethsteven.co.uk
Kenneth Steven can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org