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Orkney / This Life by Andrew Greig

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Dear M.—

About two years ago, you carry the weight of these questions around with you: Where is to be my next home? What type of person will I become within its walls?

There have been too many days and too many oceans between us. The hours stretch and stretch. Sometimes you’re too far away. Sometimes I’m too far away.

Currently though you’re a few timezones ahead, and it amuses me to think that you now live in my future. It is the way you lean to me, and the way I lean to you.

Here, perhaps, are some answers. They’re not much, but I believe them to be true: you are home, because you carry that with you, too. And you are one of the best persons I know.

Happy birthday, my darling friend.


Orkney / This Life
Andrew Greig

For Catherine and Jamie

It is big sky and its changes,
the sea all round and the waters within.
It is the way sea and sky
work off each other constantly,
like people meeting in Alfred Street,
each face coming away with a hint
of the other’s face pressed in it.
It is the way a week-long gale
ends and folk emerge to hear
a single bird cry way high up.

It is the way you lean to me
and the way I lean to you, as if
we are each other’s prevailing;
how we connect along our shores,
the way we are tidal islands
joined for hours then inaccessible,
I’ll go for that, and smile when I
pick sand off myself in the shower.
The way I am an inland loch to you
when a clatter of white whoops and rises…

It is the way Scotland looks to the South,
the way we enter friends’ houses
to leave what we came with, or flick
the kettle’s switch and wait.
This is where I want to live,
close to where the heart gives out,
ruined, perfected, an empty arch against the sky
where birds fly through instead of prayers
while in Hoy Sound the ferry’s engines thrum
this life this life this life.

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