THE BRIG

For those who like to see things in a unity, and in time for the opening of the beautiful Queensferry Crossing in a few hours, here is the entire sequence of the Brig poems:

The Brig

I

Too often the ford had been impassable.
The river tormented with a thunderous divide
between the landholds of opposing tribes
that weighed their worth in lineage and cattle.

Wild weathers brought them together at last;
deep quarrels of blood were cast aside
so the need of exchange could override
the lust for revenge through constant battle.

They gathered up stones that the hills had shed,
assessing their value by texture and grain,
and split them to size with wedges, not swords.

With each side anchored by the river’s bed,
on a scaffold of pine they arched a span
locking a keystone stronger than words.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

II

On crystal days the bridge and the water
made a circle of light in which birds and
insects, air and thought might pass through time
without a single ripple of reflection.

People came, not to traverse the bridge, but
to be where the gurgling silence was full
and to wait with no burden of expectation till
the moon would tremble the halo with glow.

Lovers met there where arms reached out
and touched, and pilgrims on their way
to penance stopped for ceremonies
of soft water and the sanctuary of trees.

When rain roared with the river in full flow,
fox spirits crossed on the parabola of night.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

III

Stones don’t groan, but there are times when
the load placed on them calls out for a sound
to complement the burden of enforced departure,
the weight that presses in a bitter leaving,
to harmonise with the lament of grinding wheels
and shuffling feet against greased cobbles,
the scrabbling masses of submissive sheep
squeezed through parapets towards course shearing.

Dragoons and brigands on iron shod horses
clattered across with cloaked intentions;
and hearses, too, rigid as covered guns,
returned for burials in the heart of the glen.

With the advent of engines, the brig, disused,
decayed, evoked in photographs of then.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

IV

Sometimes it seems that the brig is one
with the stone from which it sprung, as if
the rock was reaching to rejoin itself after
the wearing of millennia of water.

There is a fragile solidity to
the cupping of time in a curve that lifts
the whole of the sky as an offering
to be passed to the clasp of another
in a gentle continuum of transference.

Or is it, perhaps, the space that wears away,
and time that erodes to wasted sand
with the water as its messenger;
and emptiness that makes the solid
of the hole in the stone it leaves behind?

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

V

People stopped to marvel at the skeleton
of the brig, how its rickle of stones still stood
in defiance of gravity and hard weather.

Coaches and minibuses spilled out tourists.
Soon it was listed amongst a selection
of ‘must see sites’. Guides were hired to invent crude
myths of secret trysts and black bloody deeds with their
associated hauntings. Teens on study trips
queued at caravans for brigburger
specials and chips. Engineers sweated
to preserve the brig’s dilapidated state
in perpetuity. Nothing could be allowed to disturb
its rich antiquity, the wealth it created.

Pipers piped pibrochs, donations gratefully accepted.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

VI

The dome of a morning was stirred by a note
that hollowed the bowl of hills and fields.
It loomed as though through a ring of fog;
an upwelling out of the stubborn soil
shivering dying grasses with impending;
water being strummed in a goblet of innocence;
the songbreath of an aeolian vowel
captured in the curvature of a bell.

Horses snorted, stamped, drew back their ears;
dogs turned docile, lolled below lintels,
their jaws held tight to the tremulous earth;
birds cocked their heads, refrained from flying.

Wind touched a wavering harmonic in the brig,
brushed the tension in its stone with a fingertip.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

VII

When the support about the keystone crumbles,
and the dressed blocks of the arch collapse
into the rough and tumble of the torrent,
once again we’ll have to learn to stumble
over the random stepping stones, and clasp
at overhanging foliage to prevent
being taken by that relentless force
of water thrusting from the thunder of the gorge.

By then we’ll have forgotten the beauty of the bridge.
Our attention will be focused on the placement of our feet,
balancing the power we’ll need to take those leaps
of faith that sudden bursts of courage,
and a fixed will to succeed, should help us reach
those paths we lost through arrogance, conceit.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

VIII

Once there was a brig here. That much is known.
We find it in the lore of stories told round fires
after the inundations, the re-formation of the ice.

Who envisaged it, who argued its cause,
who laid down the gold, who worked it, all are lost
to time and fern and moss with those who loved
and fought in consequence that it was here.

Water has renewed the great divide.

What remains is a bridge of mist,
the suspended condensation of a truth
emerging like a halo out of night,

What continues is the conjunction
of all that hangs upon the arch of a rainbow,
a perfect precision of art, and light.

©Angus D H Ogilvy August 2017

 

 

 

angusAngus was born in Glasgow, grew up in Galloway, and was educated in Edinburgh and Dundee. He has had a career in education which included 25 years as an international school teacher and administrator in Spain, China, Nepal, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. Since winning his school poetry prize in his youth, he has had an abiding interest in poetry and his poems have appeared in various publications.  He returned to Edinburgh in 2008 and spends his time writing, doing voluntary work, and addressing conferences, seminars and symposiums about the patient experience of cancer using his poetry as an aid to communication. He has recently published a collection of poems, Lights in the Constellation of the Crab and House Clearing by Moonlight, in aid of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.

 

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