Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Aonach Eagach, Glencoe

The path is steep and rocky
and my body’s growing tired.
I’m looking for the summit cairn,
the peak I hope to find - 
and at the top I’ll rest awhile
and take a look around, 
decide if I’ve the energy
for the track above the cloud.

For I know that there's more climbing, 
there are still flowers at my feet,
but weariness keeps nagging me - 
a voice I cannot cheat.
I’ve wandered far, I’ve sung my songs, 
the wind is still as sweet, 
but all of us are passing through
to where all pathways meet.

My track is strewn with metaphor
and words mean what you read.
We all of us hear different songs
along the roads we tread.
 But looming in the distance
 or rising at our feet
that final hill is where we go
and where all pathways meet.

© C.M.M. 10/16

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Eyes wide open

One pale, quiet morning, 
I open my soul’s eyes 
unarmed with faith or company, 
responsibility or joy, 
and see quite plain
the vastness of it all, the loneliness, 
the very impossibility of life.
A hand in the desert - 
will there be a hand? 
Someone who knows the way
to travel this grey distance
and find the distant hills?

The question hangs
in the still air. But 
in the birdless silence
is that the gentle ripple
not mocking or sardonic
but inviting, is that -
oh please, is that -
a companionable laugh?

© C.M. 03/13

Friday, September 21, 2012


I have walked the high places, seen
the haze in the glaciated
trough beneath my feet;
I have heard the raven’s croak
among tall crags, felt the winds
keen around my head. I have
trusted my life to a friend, sensed the
taut rope’s reassurance,
known the joy of balance
on the white path’s ribbon.
I have sensed the unseen God in
the fierce, dangerous joy, the
tension and the trust, and always,
always the wind of his breath
piling the tumultuous clouds,
sweeping the pale sky clear.

©C.M.M. 12/01

Friday, September 14, 2012

Arles: Feria du Riz

Photo ©Fraser Shiells, by permission

Sitting at lunch beneath the shade
we heard the gunfire - loud, sharp - 
and then the growing noise of cheers
above the music of the band
and rushed to line the barricade
between us and the road.
And what came next was troubling to
the me that thinks I’m civilised
as horses clattered in the dust
and lances waved and suddenly
I saw the bulls - small, dusty, black
and gone: a swiftness barely seen
as bodies swirled and young boys clawed
and darted in among the hooves
and grabbed and cheered and strutted there.
And my blood raced in sympathy
as small dogs yapped beside my legs
and all my civilised disdain
was pulverised and lay in dust.

C.M. 09/12

This was a fascinating, thrilling and ultimately disturbing experience - the more so because I had not anticipated the event. I'm grateful to my friend Fraser Shiells for his photo - the speed of everything made it hard to capture, and this moment, when one of the bulls escaped the corralling horses and headed back down the road on its own, was especially dramatic.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Night Piper

Photo ©Ewan McIntosh
Into a random dream, only half-remembered,
dances the noise of -
God, it’s pipes! And it’s
three am and I’ve been sleeping but
I leap from my bed and look 
out and there they are: a man, 
pipes shouldered, marching along
the sleeping crescent playing 
his heart out. And it’s not just the old
Scotland the Brave stuff but
an intricate shifting pattern of notes
and he’s good, good, but
far too loud for my wincing brain.
In front of this marching kilt 
five figures dance
yes, dance,
keeping time as they
make their way past the
dark houses which seem
like me not to have welcomed them
with lights, but they don’t care.
Light on their feet and lightly
rhythmic they pass on and the music sounds
more and more distant as the night 
folds back and sleep floods over
the vacant echoes of the town.


This happened on the only weekend of the year when such things are, in fact, normal - Cowal Games weekend. The poem actually suggested itself to me as I was drifting back to sleep, but I've taken almost a week to get round to putting it down.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

MIners' Gala 1984

I’m riding on a lorry through
the Edinburgh streets. Beside
me is a missile, quite small,
made of cardboard painted
silver. Should be black.
Upturned faces in the sun
stare white; some shout:
Save oor pits, missus
as if this missile
had the power to sweep away
the English government of the day
and blow it back to when
their fathers walked in
heavy boots, pale in the
morning sun and back,
black-faced at dusk
from hellish pits of endless toil
that now would end
and they would miss. And I
and my missile trundle on,
an incidental sideshow
in Thatcher’s Circus 84.

C.M.M 05/12

A sudden memory, triggered by local election talk and the despair of those who feel government cares little for them. This was certainly the case in 1984, the year of the Miners' Strike, after which the mining industry was never the same again. As CND activists we were seen as allies against the Thatcher government, though I felt strongly that in that situation we were merely demonstrating solidarity - for there was nothing we could do about it, any more than the miners whose families lined the Edinburgh streets on that sunny day.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Garden

That night there was no
peace in the garden. The voice
beat randomly and wordless
on the shrinking sense as the flames
flickered irritably in the unseen chill.
The struggling prayer faltered
with each startling blow and
died as the God’s voice dwindled and
withdrew. And when the silence fell
blessedly and the night grew still
it was already over, this riven time,
and the marching feet, the harsher
shouts, the drawn steel glinting
in the dark – to this the prayer had led
and left the silence of the grave.

C.M.M. 04/12