Corriecravie / Torr A’Chaisteil
Overlaid with silken lanolin, his worn and callused hand
grips mine. I want to hold on, learn about its lines,
its edges, that softening glaze. We’ve just seen him
bearing a fleece like a saddle into his barn, parked
our rental car by his drive, stopped to ask if he minded.
His sheepdog Jem bounds out to greet us, tired of working
and happy for a scratch or two under the chin and upside
the head and just there behind the ears. The farmer James
has been sheering and he’s ready to chat with Canadian
tourists looking for the hillfort, to tell us of his sheep,
the farm in his family 300 years, his doctor daughter
who won’t be moving back. A nice break in his work,
chatting up young tourist women here to clamber over
grassy hills, imagining the Pictish walls crowded atop
the mound like sheep nestling against each other,
milling around with their backs to the weather.
How one day time sheers them off its heights and we hope
that shearer’s hands were as honest as James’, but fear
the calluses then came from use of weapons and not a plow,
the liquid that softened the skin not lanolin but blood.
Hope the people were placed just as lovingly in the barn’s
warm keeping. Hope whatever dogged them was cheerfully
practical as Jem. Hope they were as grateful as we to come
in from the cold clear wind shaving in from the sea.
~ Neile Graham
Neile Graham is a Canadian writer living in Seattle, Washington. Her poems have been published in various Canadian and American journals, including Canadian Literature, Calyx, and The Malahat Review. She has three full-length poetry collections, most recently Blood Memory (BuschekBooks 2000), and a CD, She Says: Poems Selected and New (The Alsop Review Press, 2007).