‘Cut deep into the earth – a firm track, going somewhere’

In these two delightful poems we invite you to travel with us to Crianlarich to see swallows on the station platform and to cross the Machair in the Outer Hebrides.


Swallows at Crianlarich

The sleeper shuffles into Crianlarich

on a grey morning, eyes not quite open yet.

Stepping onto the platform, I feel air from the hills

splash like fresh water in my face

and am startled by a world full of wings:

swallows swooping round the station,

small bodies that jink and dart,

over the down platform, past tearoom signs

and tubs of late-summer flowers,

across lines stretching south to Glasgow,

rails running north across Rannoch Moor –

dancing as though delighted,

maybe with the morning midge-rise,

or simply with all that air

sending out urgent messages on twitter,

low-flying, then looping over and up

to gather on wires with fast-beating hearts:

a new brood testing their wings

in training for the long haul

where lines converge on the horizon,

connecting with another hemisphere

and this in-between place where I’ve alighted,

paused for breath, is where the tired year

breathes out and blows them far away –

where the young swallows’ journey starts.


A Track Across the Machair

Credit to David Coleman

Photo Credit: David Coleman

This track is a bit like my journey, Jesus –

winding and gravelly,

rather rough at the edges.

But it’s well-used too,

cut deep into the earth –

a firm track, going somewhere.

It gives me the confidence I need

to keep going,

always travelling, like you.


‘Swallows from Crianlarich’ is from A Pocket Full of Crumbs, by Jan Sutch Pickard, to be published by Wild Goose Publications. ‘A Track Across the Machair’, from Iona: Images and Reflections by Neil Paynter and David Coleman, is out now published by Wild Goose Publications (PB, £13.99).



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