Awake at five
A raucous throstle at the pane,
My mate's tail tickling my heel.
"Up," she bids me, bright and bonny. "Coffee, then the road by six,
Before the tourist traffic stirs."
Shuffling, grumbling, down the stairs
Groping for the beans
I watch the brew drip through, and dream, and dream
That perhaps, some day, one day,
My mate, she'll deign at last to bite me.
Top-down under solstice sun,
We take the Perthshire road.
By eight the heat is roiling, and the whole world amplifies.
A chaffinch shouts full song from ashes overhead. As we doppler past,
I just catch his dappled flash of green and blue.
Heady, swirling reek of garlic-in-the-hedge. Far ahead, unseen,
Some driver's killing lungs with tar and nicotine.
My mate's muzzle wrinkles.
All Bredalbane shimmers in the fey midmorning haze.
Madcap bikers wasp their deathwish dodgem games.
Ahead, a headlamp-flash; and there, around the bend,
A rider who misjudged his speed sits propped upon the verge,
His machine a smoking ruin.
Police and paramedics fuss; strobes light the churned earth orange and bright blue.
I try hard not to look.
Distractedly, I turn the dial.
A scientist picks tunes, and muses on free will.
A stretch of three-and-fifty summers, my length of road thus far
I tap my fuel-gauge, my meter for the road ahead;
The needle dips and quivers,
Ever the unreliable narrator.
My mate, she always knows just how to lift my mood.
She guffaws, and I glance to where her furry finger points.
A hotel sign shouts, 'Pets Welcome / Live Music'.
"Well," she giggles to me, grinning. "A discerning audience they would be, for sure."
But my mate, for all her lupine grace, still brings the guile.
Our destination's known to her and her alone.
Moredun's a little fort upon a hill, girt all around by woodlands wild.
My mate – she brings the wild.
"So, why Moredun?" I ask, at journey's end.
She quirks a fang, and slips without a word
Along our sylvan way.
The woodland reeks and teems, the air scent-saturated
The cinnamon of gorse
Something rotting, fetid, in the loam.
Breezeless beech-boughs arch and beckon overhead
The oaks drip sphagnum, polypod.
Suddenly I'm seeing everything, and it's dizzying.
I pick out digitalis, forget-me-not, happy to retain botany
And see bumblebees make proper obeisance to thyme.
Some errant brock has left a turd; it's occluded, now
By shining, shit-drunk flies.
Brave beetles scuttle on thin stalks,
Urgent, iridescent, in thrall to some uncan prompting.
Lemon hawkweeds blaze, a thousand perfect suns
Ox-eyes supernova in their moment of fain glory.
Old needles prop a gleam of ruined cream
The ovoid's rent, the ragged edge of ruin;
No feathered creature issued thence.
Nearby, atop his throne of spruce
A raven cronk-cronks out a rude greeting
He bobs as if to moon me, earthbound as I am.
The brazen bill is clean of yolk, but he's proudly guilty, even still.
My mate is smiling, waiting.
"Look," she says then, pointing. "Did you forget I said,
We never really left?"
A wolf-trace, perfect and pristine
Fresh as fondest memory
Is pressed into the mud.
The fort itself has smooth, sleek shoulders
A grassy pap, pregnant with life's chances.
We scramble up, you sprinting faster on swift legs;
When at last I breach the top, your muzzle's tilted up.
Your howl envelops me, and I sense none else can hear
And thus cocooned, I feel my vision swim.
All Perthshire blurs – and there, instead,
Full fourscore furclad wolves and men, from when they shared this world.
Your arms come round me from behind.
"Behold, your witnesses," she mouths into my ear.
"For on the eve of Litha, the hingepin of the year, all veils thin."
Your tongue's a lover's rasp across my neck.
I cant it back to meet your fang,
Throstle – old term for a thrush, particularly the song thrush Turdus philomelos
Bredalbane – part of the central/southern Scottish Highlands, centred on Loch Tay
Digitalis – the foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
Polytrichum – a kind of moss
Polypod – a fern native to Scottish woodlands
Moredun – literally, 'big fort' – the largest iron-age hll fort in Perthshire, located in the woodland of Moncreiffe on the outskirts of Perth
Uncan - strange, unknown (Shetland dialect)
If you like this piece, be sure to check out its sequel, 'The Fourth Lunation'.