Friday, 3 December 2010

(24) Sand Chapel

‘I have been a wave breaking upon the beach

On a boundless sea I was set adrift’

– Romance of Taliesin

24 Sign
Ken Cockburn, 2010

Our Sue-no-Matsuyama temple is Sand Chapel, Gruinard Bay

Our graves are Laide burial Ground, our pines are the Caledonia Forest Experimental Reserve, between Rivers Little Gruinard and Inverianvie: Please Keep Out, Letterewe Estate

Our Shiogama Beach sounds along the red sands at Sand and camas at Little Gruinard

Our a bell sounded evening is as silent as the church is ruined

Our samidare sky is September smirr

Our Magaki Island is Gruinard Island, faded anthrax of old

Our fishing boats are the glass bottomed boats of Gairloch, O you make the rockpool-seas go round

Our blind minstrel is Seán Ó Riada and Ceoltóirí Chualann, playing in the car

Our traditional in such out-of-the-way places is the Young Pipers Festival, Gairloch, September, 2010


24 Loch Bad an Sgalgaig
Alec Finlay, 2010

The road to Sand wound around Loch Bad an Sgalgaig and Glen Kerry, to the pier at Gairloch.

24 Gairloch Pier
Alec Finlay, 2010

24 Gairloch harbour
Ken Cockburn, 2010

24 Gairloch harbour creels
Ken Cockburn, 2010

24 Gairloch Lucy Oxford
Ken Cockburn, 2010

24 hokku-label, Gairloch
(‘line / longline / longing’, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

Loch Maree

Where the road turns inland, heading off the peninsula, there’s a view from Tollie down Loch Maree, glimpses of the ghost of Olaf’s sail, and Princess’s shroud, recalled from Nick’s telling of the tale.

24 hokku-label
(‘a white / sails sees // a black / sail mourns // a white /shroud keens’, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

24 hokku-label
(‘pain of one who goes / emptiness of one left behind / the Viking lovers’, KC, after Basho)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

(KC, AF)


The places Basho refers to around Shiogama – named for its salt pans – are out of the way and ordinary, celebrated in poems.

Sand Burn flumes to the sea over pebbles.

Gable-walls of the ruined chapel, famed for Maol Rubha.

Pines, worthy of remark because so little Caledonian Forest remains.

Gruinard, memorable for anthrax experiments and the sheep who died as a result.

......suggesTed –
..................sHhhh! –

24 hokku-label
Ken Cockburn, 2010

(KC, AF)

Until the Day Break: The Chapel of Sand

24 Sand Chapel
Ken Cockburn, 2010

24 Repairing the Sand Chapel
Alec Finlay, 2010

24 Gravestone, Sand Chapel
Alec Finlay, 2010

Bay’s grey, and the far mountains; sea’s grey.

24 circle poem (the waves fetch)
for Matthew Hollis
Alec Finlay, 2010

The lichens drift grey waves on the graves

24 wave grave
Alec Finlay, 2010

Even the tea for today’s a ‘Black Spiral’, like the tangled bladderpops on the beach.

24 tea-moon (Black Spiral)
Alec Finlay, 2010

But there are colours to be found.

14s for Isobel (red pebble vein)
Alec Finlay, 2010

14s for Isobel (shells)
Alec Finlay, 2010

14s for Isobel (Periwinkles)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

24 hokku-label, Sand Chapel
(‘a dram-psalm / to carry as / far as Aber’, KC, for Rhodri Davies)

Alec Finlay, 2010

The Church fulfils its name, being preserved with faith and sandbags, filled from the beach.

24 hokku-label, Sand Chapel
(‘seasalt/spray // honeycomb / stone // redsand/strand’, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

We enter beyond the No Entry sign to libate.

24 Basho pre-libation
Alec Finlay, 2010

24 Sora’s Libation
Alec Finlay, 2010

24 hokku-label
(‘the sea’s / ease // at rest / in the // Sand / Chapel’, AF)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

A last dandelion waits for a favourable wind.

24 hokku-label
(‘blown / COLUMBA / across / DONAN / Alba / MAELRUBHA’, KC)
Ken Cockburn, 2010

Lovesong: Written in Sand

At Masshozan Temple Basho wanders among graves beneath pines, reflecting on death and the separation of lovers, recalling Po Chu-i's ‘Song of the Everlasting Sorrow’.

‘We told each other secretly in the quiet midnight world
That we wished to fly in heaven, two birds with the wings of one,
And to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree.’

tr. Witter Bynner

24 circle poem (spreading our wings sharing our eyes)
Alec Finlay, 2010

oku love-poem

the flamed warmth
of whisky recalls

the swilled warmth
of tea that rhymes

with the warmth of the fire
smoored beside us

echoed in the warmth
of your body breathing softly

and that other warmth
no words can describe

24 circle poem (one goose)
for Caroline
Alec Finlay, 2010



Gruinard Island was a testing ground for British biological weapons. During WW2, in 1942, experiments with the anthrax bacterium made the island unsafe for habitation by mammals. Eighty sheep were taken to the island and bombs filled with anthrax spores were exploded close to where selected groups were tethered. It was decontaminated in the late 20th century.

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