Yesterday we went to Benmore Botanical Garden, partly to celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary, but also to see the trail installed there as part of Scotland’s Soils and Stories. At five viewpoints around the garden there were storyboards showing extracts from some Scottish literature relative to the soil or landscape or trees growing there. Authors included Sir Walter Scott, Robin Jenkins, James Robertson, Kenneth Grahame, Sara Maitland, Kathleen Jamie and (ulp!) me. And here I am, in a beautiful mossy setting (though furthest away from the gate, and up a very high hill).
The poem chosen was this one, which was first published in TheTerritory of Rain (Red Squirrel Press) in 2015:
Blanket bog clothes the land
like a black melancholy, shrouding
the slopes in the weight of its slo-mo layers.
Grudges and peat break down slowly.
Bones of old loves and hates
are kept intact for ever.
Sphagnum can absorb
twice its own weight in tears.
Crazy insectivorous plants
thrive on trapped flies and imagined slights,
and lost birds wail, raking through pools
and stirring the endless mud.
Keep it safe, keep it undisturbed.
Under these tons of peat and apathy
enough carbon is sequestered
to melt the last chips of polar ice
and burn up every one of us
on the whole raging earth.
I was especially pleased by the background information which put the poem in the context of a discussion of buried ancient structures, and the concept of landscape time, which is something I’m quite intrigued with just now. I am very grateful to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh who organised this display, and have made something lovely of my poem. The book is out of print just now, but I have a few copies left which you can buy from my shop if you are in the UK.