Below are English translations of some of my Gaelic poems. They may give some idea of the originals, which can be viewed by following the Gàidhlig links.
In the Moor
One day as I sat quietly,
I saw the red road
rising from the blue moor
and disappearing without trace.
Who will take the road
repaying life from blood
to the top of the far shoulder
beyond the pale glen of the word.
(Below, the sea was a witness
with its faint mocking laughter –
pathless and wordless,
level its surface and song).
But I wanted the road
that will perhaps break the heart,
and jauntily I set off,
seeing the dust and soil,
kissing the dirt in my hand –
footsteps of bards long gone.
And a truth dawned on me
amidst the stillness of words –
poetry isn’t saying but being.
from Eileanan/Islands 1980
Islands rise from the sea,
their foundations hidden
in ancient experiences.
Islands are in and out of time,
guides for the wanderer,
or submerged in time long gone.
Some are well established,
high and dark in the flood.
No storm will affect their well-formed front.
Some in lava and sulphurous grief,
sea children of torn heart.
And others, icebergs, coldly moving in the water.
Some will stand silent,
lonely – inwardly as rock –
unassuming in the heat of the day.
And there is an island in the dusk,
assured, dark, and repelling,
its foundations in a fading time.
And this island in the sunset,
island watching another island.
You decide your own form.
From Eileanan/Islands, 1980
My Village Tonight
You are my village tonight,
remarkable your lights,
warm glow in the moor’s bleakness.
High above Shore Street
your other streets rise –
streets like a soft carpet –
and my hands will feel your paths
and my heart your heart.
Woodland and tree between the ways,
they will rise on the summits
and the knolls will be soft with moss
and the moss with dew.
You are the resplendent village,
little village by the wave,
secret village of my love,
tidal village and earth village,
village of the soft breasts,
village that will ease from self
and keep us folded as one.
When you lift your summer skirt
I will dance on your meadow,
and we will ascend the steps
up from the edge of the sea
until we are above the world,
and I see you lying below me
like a diamond in the kyle.
From Bailtean/Bailtean 1987
Between Law and Laughter
This poem unashamedly
walks the borderland between law and laughter,
growing like a tree in the light of the sun,
the leaves dance wherever they like,
the trunk grows where it must:
growing in the gap between law and freedom
aware that freedom is only:
those laws hidden from man.
And at last the conclusion
that a veil of unknowing covers our eyes.
from A’ Càradh an Rathaid/Mending the Road, 1988
Over the Threshold
I go over the threshold
because I have seen a little gleam
of sunshine through the curtains.
I’m going on a journey,
because I’m not sure what’s ahead
or behind me
although I did see a golden gleam on the everlasting mountain.
O soft idols of the pillow!
I take my leave of you
joyfully, with doubt, with tears,
because I have been wrong for so long,
for the spendthrift days,
for the warm, deceitful bedcovers.
O, all-seeing heart!
O, deceiving, soiled heart
you are killed with sacrifices,
flayed by the knife of the morning!
But go over the threshold, don’t look back
to the warm, comfortable home,
or to the weathertight walls.
You are out in the light;
the mountains are shouting;
the marvellous wilderness is before you;
the eternal stars are spraying you with dew,
stretched out with the endless plain.
O marvel! O elation! O unending miracle!
From Saoghal Ùr/New World, 2003
The Just Feather
The shudder of horse, they come
from the bounds of the kingdom
with a thrum on the earth
nearer they come,
pandemonium of hooves
thunder and rumble
as in a dream,
as would come in a vision,
a nether god making
from remote depths,
from the ravenous heart.
(Herod sits in his chamber,
his turbid mind perturbed,
disturbed by the power of Rome.)
But not the stern power of horse
with hazard of hosts,
as in the vision,
threatening terror and fear;
not the pound of their trampling
tearing the earth
will triumph in the end …
but another dream,
the nails through the palms,
the feeble, holy thing yielding
from pity to the cruel;
Rome and the Innocent,
and in the end,
the just feather will fell the horse,
as love is the ground,
love and justice –
and the clamour will cease.
from The Two Sides of the Pass / Dà Thaobh a’ Bhealaich, 2009
Twelve Verses for a House
Cement blocks, windows
and red roof tiles –
an elegant stub in the ground.
Keeper of secrets,
to which regard returns.
Amused night joy,
who keeps laughter
stored under rafters.
You welcome the sun
enchain the light;
yellow flowers in the window.
Or place of shadow;
grief and extremity
soil the walls.
Soul symbol – under the joists
id; ego itself on a high
superego in bed.
Out and out drunk, throws things,
your slates shake,
Eaves harvester of birds,
yearly they return;
protector of brood.
A ship tears the sky,
white clouds nibble
the chimney masts.
A boat under sail,
four yellow masts
stretch the red sails.
A door to quietness
after rose fades:
listen to the ebb sough.
The soft sound distils
short of the cold street;
comfort – listen.
from The Two Sides of the Pass / Dà Thaobh a’ Bhealaich, 2009
Abbreviations: GO – Gaelic only; BGE – Bilingual, Gaelic/English; BGG – Bilingual, Gaelic/Gaeilge; BGS – Bilingual, Gaelic/Scots
Eileanan (Islands), GO, 1980
Bailtean (Villages), BGE, 1987
A’ Càradh an Rathaid (Mending the Road), BGG, 1988
A’ Gabhail Ris (Accepting), GO, 1994
Saoghal Ùr (New/Fresh World), GO, 2002
Available from www.coisceim.ie
Dà Thaobh a’ Bhealaich/The Two Sides of the Pass, (BGE), Two Ravens Press, 2009 ISBN 978-1-906120-47-4 a co-authored bilingual work with Mark O. Goodwin
Tro Chloich na Sùla (Through the Pupil of the Eye), GO, 2014
Island Conversion, BGE, 2011, has a 38 poem sequence
Blasad de Aesop GO Seahorse, Tobermory, 1991
Anthologies (with a substantial number of poems)
An Aghaidh na Sìorraidheachd (In the Face of Eternity) BGE (8 poets) Polygon, Edinburgh, 1991
Scotland o Gael an Lawlander (4 poets) BGS Gairm, Glasgow, 1996
An Tuil (The Flood) BGE Polygon, Edinburgh, 1999
ANTHOLOGIES/PUBLICATIONS (with one or several poems)
The Pirate of Torloisg Am Muileach, 1980
Air Ghleus 1 Acair, 1989
Somhairle, Dàin is Deilbh Acair, 1991
The Patched Fool Morning Star, 1991
Twenty of the Best Galliard, 1990
Bàrdachd na Roinn-Eòrpa Gairm, 1990
Sruth na Maoile Canongate/Coiscéim, 1993
Writing the Wind New Native Press, 1997
Carmichael’s Book Morning Star, 1997
Another Book to Burn Bootleg Editions, 1998
Celtic Visions Black Buzzard Press, VA, USA
Wish I was Here Pocketbooks, 2000
Atoms of Delight Pocketbooks, 2000
Words of the West Ullapool Text Project, 2000
An Leabhar Mòr PNE, 2002
The EmLit Project Brunell University, 2003
Scotlands Poets & the Nation Carcanet/Poetry Library, 2004
An Guth 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 Coiscéim, 2003 – 2006
The Little Book of Piping Quotations Piping Scotland, 2004
100 Island Poems Iron Press, 2005
Dreuchd an Fhigheadair Poetry Library/Word Festival
-The Weaver’s Task: a Gaelic Sampler Aberdeen, 2007
mesostic interleaved Edinburgh University/Morning Star, 2009
These Islands we Sing Birlinn / Polygon, 2011
Dàin do Shomhairle SPL/CNL, 2011
New Writing Scotland 30 ASLS, 2012
Into the Forest Saraband, 2013
Words from an Island The Skye Reading Room, 2013
Scotland’s Still Light Luath Press Ltd, 2014
Struileag: Cladach gu Cladach Polygon, 2015
Poems in Magazines/Journals Gairm; Lines Review; Cencrastus; Orbis; Poetry Ireland Review; Comhar; Gairfish; Baragab; An Cànan; New Writing Scotland; Verse; Celtic Visions; Skye 95; Gath; An Guth; Northwords Now; Poetry Scotland; Chapman