Poem of the Week: The Way to Warebeth Beach by Andrew Greig

  30 Nov '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

This poem from Andrew Greig’s new collection, Later That Day, is about the familiar routine of walking your dog on a familiar beach on a darkening afternoon. There is comfort in familiarity yet also consolation in the knowledge that each different day presents a sum of different elements: a balance between what’s gone before and what’s still to come.

The Way to Warebeth Beach
Andrew Greig

It is the way grass bends over puddles and rutted track,
yields to the wind then springs back,
shaking out last seeds as the season ends.

It is the way the track runs from graveyard to rough grazing
where clover and faded sea pinks quiver,
the sea charging forward yet getting no closer.

It is the way the light grows more lurid,
dark clouds over Hoy making blue lighter,
pressing dark into early night,

and the volume of waves and the volume of wind
pour in through eyes and ears
till all is high water at Warebeth.


Seaweed and salt frazzle the soft
linings of the nose, neural pathways register
the way a black-backed gull moves
into the gale without beating its wings.
A sleight of weight and tilt of feathers,
it passes through the dilated sun,
turns black, emerges lit red,
pivots on one wing
            then much faster slides downwind
back through the sun and out again
to show what practice and a backing wind can do.


It is the way surges keep rolling in, mount the shallows,
unzip along the seam spilling white foam feathers.
None of this has ever exactly repeated itself, not once,

for otherwise the world would be static and a trap
instead of being beyond control and comprehension
and suitable for living in, given you too are beyond

comprehension and control – the silhouette of a notion
passes through the sun, to the effect
being alive is not the riddle but its answer

as though the Divine were Hendrix in bandana and loons
smashing his Stratocaster into the galactic columns
listening intently to the howl


The sun has gone and light is going fast.
The wind is cold and it is time to go home.
The dog drags her muzzle from sheep shit in grass.

The path looked at this way is the same path but different,
not the path of going but the path of returning.
Spent grass springs up, bows again along the verges.
You would think after all these years the wind
would have arrived at its destination and settled down
like an old dog in its basket.

You open the car door, Sadie struggles into the back seat.
Up front, you believe you are driving
even as you witness yourself driving
away from the beach and the track to the sea.
You believe you are going home, as though you were not
already home, as if here were somewhere else

and now is a time where we do things differently.
In the mirror the path fades into the dark,
and the metalled road is near-dark but you won’t
switch on the lights just yet,
for your eyes have adjusted and this dimness is just right
and the way to the sea and the way home

remain two and the same,
the only way open to you,
not so hard to follow through gathering dark.

From Later that Day, 2020

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