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A Scottish Six-Pack of Sonnets

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Landing at Stornoway.
Landing at Stornoway.
(Image by Latest News.)
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A Scottish Six-Pack of Sonnets

by John Kendall Hawkins

Paint me a cavernous waste shore

Cast in the unstilled Cyclades,

Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks

Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.

- T.S. Eliot, "Sweeney Erect"


The Outer Hebrides

We're descending into the mad gales of Lewis,

and I'm terrified of the plane's sideways approach --

cross winds out of the big mouths of bickering gods --

I'd pray, but can't, so seek succor in the odds,

a tactic not supported by the trembling coach,

but then we land, and the gods stop dissing through us.

Welcome to the Hebrides! I'm here for twelve weeks

of recovery, relief, and to do some writing,

coming from Austraya, another far-flung place.

Stornoway was found and settled by the Viking race,

and I find its quaint isolation inviting;

I look forward to narrative editorial tweaks.

I didn't bring my Lonely Planet guide this time,

as I wanted to be surprised by this new clime.

Cottage I stayed in
Cottage I stayed in
(Image by Western Isles Properties Ltd)
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Habost: The Cottage

In my stone cottage digs I heat by peat,

after a morning bagging fresh cuts in the bogs.

I'm stocked up on coffee and wine, staples for slogs,

fuel and reward for my new pig beat --

twice per day up and down the croft in the red quad,

through sleet and rain and raging blows of wind,

I bring feed to the swine, mud up to my mind,

sloshing, freezing, angry at reinvented God.

On TV one night the old classic "M"

sees Peter Lorre before a kangaroo court

full of the sid vicious pathological sort.

It's an old classic Janus film gem.

Fat Rosie was goaded up and taken away,

and became a delicious dinner on Sunday.

Village of Stornoway with Historical Lewis Castle.
Village of Stornoway with Historical Lewis Castle.
(Image by PhotoEverywhere.)
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In Stornoway for a Beer

Twice a week I bussed into Stornoway

to shop and to escape the drudge and cold

of my new lifestyle with the pigs and peat.

I'd bring a book, or writing pad, and take a seat

at the Crown Inn, where a cute Gaelic-speaking scold

guaranteed my trips to town would be a mainstay.

Too often Enya was in the airwaves. I'd drift

into her ethereal Celtic fantasy swoon

and got no writing done; the Gaelic girl once smiled,

but it was at some glad 'lad' behind me, riled

at 'God' knows what, but I had to leave soon,

right around the time Gaelic went off-shift.

It was a lonely trip back to Habost:

I missed how she walked, walked away the most.

'Edinburgh castle'
'Edinburgh castle'
(Image by GCampbellHall)
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On the Road to Edinburgh

The ferry across to Ullapool was rough-edged,

and I am always queasy on the open sea,

and wished I'd had some dramamine with me.

My head swirled and my full stomach felt dredged.

From Ullapool to Inverness by car's a trip,

crossing the Highlands thinking of Dylan, of Yeats --

eye out for the Lake Isle; "the bee-loud glade" waits

like some lost chord heard only by the honeyed hip.

Edinburgh Castle conjures up war and freedom --

Mel Gibson's kilt up and sweet bum out in the breeze;

angry Scotty; angus burgers at Mickey D's

as tasty-tough as Ganoderma lucidum.

The flat I stayed at had a graveyard down below:

I would spend hours watching the old flowers grow.

'Sherwood Forest'
'Sherwood Forest'
(Image by publicenergy)
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In Sherwood Forest Lost and Found

At the mindfulness conference smack dab in the woods,

where Hood and Little John once came to loggerheads,

wits, sages, and burn-outs joined other walking deads

to celebrate their resilience. And what foods!

Some old hippy went on, at taxpayer expense,

about priest-rape, evils of the norm, and we clapped --

haunted, lit up jack-o-lanterns, our empathy tapped

for hours on end. And the smorgasbord was immense.

I don't know. I have been to enough of these things

to know they do no lasting harm and may inspire

some tard to sift through child trauma for his lost fire,

a two-faced hero from Fellowship of the Rings.

I'm harsh. What did I expect -- Titicut Follies?

Instead, we got "He Ain't Heavy" by The Hollies.

'Bar Maid'
'Bar Maid'
(Image by fiatlux)
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The Return to Oz

Back in Habost, I packed my bags and memories --

death-row pigs I'd come to know (and eat), and the girl

from Stornoway, sweet and sour to the eyes of this churl,

overflown, let's say, with bonny effemmaries.

Didn't get much writing done. I was false, it's true,

to my desires, at cross purposes with my needs,

got sh*t-faced too often, disavowed all my creeds,

froze my ass off, but, by Christ, found ways to get through.

At a happy church group meeting before I left

locals displayed the Gladness of being alive

and welcomed me, this gloomy stranger, to the hive.

Then, I flew out of Stornoway, lost, feeling effed.

I returned to Oz, a rehabbed flying monkey,

like some astral projecting, late sixties' junkie.

(Article changed on Dec 19, 2021 at 1:37 AM EST)

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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