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).

3 Responses to “Corriecravie / Torr A’Chaisteil”

  1. I was delighted to read this poem by Neile Graham about my brother James the subject of the poem. I know Castle Hill very well and worked with my brothers in all the fields around. I qualified in medicine at Glasgow University and still have a small house at Corriecravie called Ridgeway. I have just recently written a poem about Castle Hill for a small poetry group i attend.James was a dear brother to me and friend to many. The turnout at his funeral two years ago indicated the respect and love the people had for him. Thanks again Donald Brown

  2. This is beautiful – from one of his three daughters – please get in touch if you can.
    We all loved him very much.

  3. Castle Hill has always been a special place to me… so much so I got married on the top in 2004! A lovely poem which has brought back many happy memories of my Dad.

    Mary Margaret Brown ( the doctor daughter)

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