Sheena Blackhall

Gold Star - 5,284 Points (18/8/1947 / Aberdeen)

The Harry Potter Train Et Al (6 Poems) - Poem by Sheena Blackhall

The Harry Potter Train et al (6 poems)

1: Animals at Large, Oban
The salmon farm looks like a wedding marquee tent
Or a huge mosquito net for a Caliph’s harem

The fishy banquet of pellets comes hailing down
An uninvited gull on the outside looking in
Drools at the salmon hedonism

Nearby on Sgeir Donn Island
The local Oban seal colony
Rolls over to face the tourists

Line dancing seals bob up black in the waves
Like little fat nudists, flashing their chubby tummies
With exuberant whiskers, Victorian and lavish.
They eye you up, then vanish in foam and spray

On the top of the Dutchman’s Hat greylag geese from Canada
Rest like aircraft travellers, after a gruelling flight

At Oban harbour, peeled prawn sandwiches
Sit cheek by jowl with lobsters, fresh from creels

Mussels, crabs and oysters,
Langoustines (live or cooked)
Hang around looking shelly and hard

Headstrong gulls, slap the ground with their flippers
Forage and screech and dive, slick opportunists

The gravelly, shingly beach, ripples and rucks
Sucked by the tides, the pebbles like small, lost souls
Spat out by the weary ocean

A cormorant holds up its arms like a prophet,
Old Testament preacher of death and retribution.

In the whitewashed sky, terns swoop
Over the housed breasts of tourists

The sea is filling a dead dove’s open beak
With foam, like bridal blossom

2: Footsteps on an Island, Kerrera
Following the star of time and movement
Walkers tread a path of many turns

In the aftermath of Culloden
Flora MacDonald came here as a prisoner

Whoever burns his backside must sit on it.

Quarry workers stepped from whitewashed cottages
Salmon fishers, weavers, and distillers
Millers and peat cutters all laboured here
Lobster fishermen supplied great liners
Shellfish packed in ice for Cunard’s Queens

The value of the well’s known when it’s dry

A Hunting Tower held Hebridean chieftains

Hold back your dog until the deer falls down
The chief’s house has a slippery doorstep.

The artist, Turner came to paint a castle
Beauty’s fine but it won’t boil the pot.

Ministers preached from sea stacks in extremity
Nothing can get into a closed fist.

At Cnoc na Faire, a clutch of childrens’ graves
Hebrideans who died in Glasgow’s slums
The grass that grows in March will fade in April.

St. Marnock’s monks walked round in meditation
What comes in with the wind goes with the water.

Bronze Age Cists hold early walkers’ bones
The moon is none the worse for barking dogs

In the bay lies the wreck of a tobacco boat
That plied its trade as far as the Caribbean.
A little hole will sink a mighty ship.
A wave will raise its head on quiet seas

3) Climbers on Ben Nevis
A blonde hairdresser in a bikini and a pair of hiking boots.
A man driving a Model T Ford
A piano, carried up by removal men from Dundee
A group of Glasgow University medical students, pushing a bed
A Fort William man pushing a wheelbarrow.
Mr Campbell, Ardgay, Ross-shire with a barrel of beer
A horse and cart and several wheelchair users.
Kenny Campbell carting a whole church organ
A whimsical sheep, watching them all pass by


4) Inverness- Fort William
Inverness rolls past. Jimmy Chung
And classy canines blow the heather myth
Clean out of the lochs

A trampoline covered in frost and autumn leaves
Trembles in icicle air, no drum beat heels
Pound on its stretched, racked skin

Three pheasants sashay out of pagoda pines
A loch as old as Methuselah wrinkles
Its wrinkled brow. Its waves collapse in shudders

Raging Highland burns pretend they’re torrents
Over Drumnadrochit clouds are pregnant
Heavy withy winter, weighted down with frost

How freeing to slip past these trees like a fox
Eyes darting from side to side
Greedy to miss not a\ scrap of the land’s beauty

Cliff faces crack where pioneering grasses
Claws at a niche. At Glenmoriston
An eagle widens its wings on a timber perch
Like a minister clearing his throat for a fierce tirade

At Fort Augustus the trees are lemon and lime
Like girls at a Sixties wedding
A head squared pensioner toddles
Through puddles of spray

A rusting barbecue sulks in a sodden garden
Its table umbrellas closed like weeping bats

A herd of hinds, due north of Invergarry
Lift startled heads, wide eyed and curious
And all along the Great Glen, mist is coiling
Round the hills, like a torc, like a Celtic snake

5) The Jacobite Express
Puffa-puffa -chugga-chug
Creche on train goes jitter-bug
Glimpse of bracken, trail of steam
Sweets and crisps…a bump….a scream
Rain and sun, and sleet and hail
Railway geeks…a minke whale
Corries, lochans, goodie bags
Pottermania, crags, peat hags
Jacobites would turn and run
From this tin of family fun
Viaducts and Neptune’s stair
Migraine. Oh thank God, we’re there! !

6) In Memoriam: Margaret Elizabeth Petrie
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?
She has gone to her rightful rest, her time to leave
The family she nourished and nurtured at her breast.
A loyal wife by love and contentment blessed
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?

She saw her slice of the world, Australia-bound
For her father went wherever work could be found
Came sailing home on a roistering, rolling tide
Via Ceylon to Gordonmills, Woodside
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?

No money for education, not for a lass
Her teenage years were work, not books in class
Married at nineteen, play-time over and done
A bairn in the pram and her husband fighting the Hun
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?
The Armistice brought flittings, and nappies to dry
A house at Beechwood, skylarks singing on high
On the edge of the country then, the growing town
Where the summers turned her family August-brown
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?

Her days were baking, washing, feeding the fire
And that was the top and tail of her whole desire
To watch her children grow to man’s estate
And in their turn, to settle and find a mate
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?

Her soul was stout, her view of the world was clean
With another roll of the dice, she might have been
An artist, dancer, scholar, highly bred
And if she regretted that, she never said
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?

There’s nothing to mourn but much to celebrate
For a step goes light when it’s not weighed down by hate
And the years go fast. Time, time decrees the end,
Much thanks to a mother, great- grandmother, friend.
Because she lived life well, what’s there to grieve?


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Poem Edited: Wednesday, December 28, 2011


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