Martin Hayden p.1

Martin Hayden

Negotiating Right of Way on Iona

Living in Community

Green-veined White


Negotiating Right of Way on Iona

It's before-dawn, feels like night, I'm on the early run
for the luggage from the Mac. After the start-up roar
the van's quietly chugging by the gate:
the routine drive-through, the dodgy hand-brake
on the sharp slope, the clang as the gate shuts.
Now cowpats halved by tyre tracks, the speckled
grassy fringes, the haunches of cattle half-buried
in the blackness, before the headlight-underworld brims
with colour: the bulk of a cow, sideways on,
in the road. I drop the revs, foot over brakes,
sure she'll shift. A head-turn into the light, a couple of times,
but she's stock-still, and so am I. Is this too early?
I ease the throttle, edge forward at that wall of brown.
With a clumsy jerk and hint of pique, she's gone.

Copyright © 2020 Martin Hayden
Martin Hayden reading Negotiating Right of Way on Iona
Living in Community
(Cul Shuna: volunteers' accommodation)

We return to Cul Shuna

     from a washed-down kitchen
                                                                       a half-tidied office
          a mostly-swept shed
                                                                             a cloth-draped laundry
                                                  a nearly-balanced till

     to discuss

                                         whether there are no bananas
                                                  because no-one's been for the bananas
or because there are no bananas
                                   whether the Eucharist
                                                                           is a barbaric survival
or a way to be Christ to one another
                                   whether it's alright to say          it's women's hair
clogging up the showers and they should sort it
                                             whether the churches
                                             crowded for meetings
in the East German revolution
                              are now empty
                                                       for the reason
                                                                    the churches around Thurso
are also empty
          whether we should all agree
                    closing the bag
                              with the aid
                                                                          of that little adhesive tab
keeps the cut loaf fresh much longer

Copyright © Martin Hayden 29 December 2011
Martin Hayden reading Living In Community
Green-veined White
(a found poem, after Jeremy Thomas, 
The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, 1991)

In sunshine
in weak, zig-zag flights
he investigates edges:
of shrubs, woodland rides, tussock,
finds a female.
He lands nearby,
showers her with 'love-dust'
so potent even we can get
its scent of lemon verbena.
A twirling and a chasing
before she lands, signals
acceptance by folding her wings.
He drags her
on a short nuptial flight
before they settle,
locked in tandem.

During mating
he smears her
with anti-aphrodisiac
to keep others away
but it's less-potent, short-lived,
an attractive female
frequently harassed.
She can signal rejection
by opening her wings wide,
holding her abdomen upright
at 90 degrees,
impossible to mate,
but will frequently succumb,
wanting fresh doses
of anti-aphrodisiac,
to lay her eggs in peace.

He goes mud-puddling,
to replace minerals
lost in mating.

In a slow, topsy-turvy flight,
as if injured, desperate to get airborne,
she tastes every plant,
seeking the mustard oils of Crucifers,
on which she lays.

Four or five together,
on the underside
of a lady's smock seedling
sprouting in old hoof-prints
in a boggy meadow.

Copyright © 2016 Martin Hayden
Green-veined White read by Martin Hayden
After three days of rain, the roadside rivulets
and runnels peat-brown, brimful,
surging the long trails of grass
caught in their edges
(three ten pound notes stuck together
in my soapy leather wallet),
I saw, in a field above the loch,
a ewe with its lamb – not 
a black-faced-and-wide-eared,
but a curly-headed, with the slight chunkiness
of the no-longer-new-born.
Both had their backs to the prevailing slant,
the ewe nonchalantly ripping the grass
as if all Scotland's rain
had at some time washed through that fleece,
the lamb perfecting the soaked-through hunch
of the picked-on and early-disappointed.
His eyelids flickered, ineffective shutters,
his three-legged stance (one front leg
flexing with a delicate shiver)
a minimal escape from wet earth.
The ewe, slightly lifting her head
in order to concentrate backwards,
shook her heavy fleece like a mat,
in a burst of subsiding misty spray.
The sleeves of my waterproof close to saturation,
I squeezed out the peak of my drenched cloth cap
and set off back up the hill into the cloud.

Copyright © 2008 Martin Hayden
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