Pass on a Poem

By the graveyard, Luskentyre  by Norman MacCaig (Scottish, 1910-1996)

From behind the wall death sends out messages
That all mean the same, that are easy to understand.

But who can interpret the blue-green waves
That never stop talking, shouting, wheedling?

Messages everywhere. Scholars, I plead with you,
Where are your dictionaries of the wind, the grasses?

Four larks are singing in a showering sprinkle
Their bright testaments: in a foreign language.

And always the beach is oghamed and cunieformed
By knot and dunlin and country-dancing sandpipers.

– There’s Donnie’s lugsail. He’s off to the lobsters.
The mast tilts to the north, the boat sails west.

A dictionary of him? – Can you imagine it? –
A volume thick as the height of the Clisham,

A volume big as the whole of Harris,
A volume beyond the wit of scholars.


This poem was chosen by Notting Hill poet and founder of Pass on a Poem, Frances Stadlen.


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