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Published by richard, 2022-06-02 10:19:40

Velvet Moss For My Pillow

Velvet Moss

Velvet moss for my pillow

Poetry and images inspired by the North Antrim Coast

Geraldine Fitzgerald and Richard Sloan







publishing/copyright details

Velvet moss for my pillow

Poetry and images inspired by
the North Antrim Coast

Geraldine Fitzgerald
and Richard Sloan



Foreword

When Richard and Geraldine asked me to write this foreword for their latest book about the North Antrim coast, ‘Velvet moss
for my pillow’, I was not only delighted to accept but also honoured to add my name to this project, having been born at
Dunseverick and still maintaining a deep affection and interest for the area and the farming and fishing families who have
lived here for many generations.

In recent years much has been written about the history, heritage, folklore and people of North Antrim and its only inhabited
island, Rathlin. However, this latest publication takes the literary works of the area to a whole new level through a unique
combination of photography and poetry which takes the reader through the often unrecognised beauty, colours, rhythms and
natural environment of this wonderful coastline.

Photographs of “the seaweed washing line”, along the coast between Whitepark Bay and Ballintoy harbour at Oye na muck,
speaks volumes of what nature is constantly doing, but we so seldom ever notice. The vivid colours of rocks, fossils, wild life
and vegetation simply explode from the pages along with the music and rhythms of Geraldine’s poems. On Rathlin, where
oyster catchers go “Kleep Kleeping” as they fly off to the lighthouse. “Clattering pebbles shift with each tidal pull” along the
coast near to Port Braddan, and the Port Moon waterfall “ripples down its rocky path to the sea”.

Never before have I so enjoyed such a wonderful selection of photographs and poetry portraying the natural beauty of this
area. The pictures of the Ulster gate pillars – I wonder who built them? The old wall stead , who lived there? The east end of
Portmoon looking towards Port na Govna, The sea at White Park Bay. The Fulmar flying low over the aquamarine sea off the
Causeway Headlands, The sheep’s wool caught up on the barbed wire fence. I could go on and on. A simply stunning
collection of images and related poetry.

Geraldine and Richard have developed a great depth of knowledge and love of our coastline over their time spent here and that
comes through in every page of this book. With references to the historic Sea of Moyle, Slough na mara, Fionnuala, Aoife.
Sedgy Glen, Carrig-na-rone and Roonavoolin on Rathlin Island. Along the coast at Port Moon, Geeragh Point, Port na Weelan
and the Shoreline poem, which recalls three little girls posting letters through the air vents of an old cottage at Dunseverick
when visiting their grandmother, many years ago. I wonder where those letters are today?

Our sincere thanks go to Richard and Geraldine for their time and effort to complete this challenging project, which has
provided such a wonderful addition to our local library and I am sure it will bring great pleasure to those of us who return to
admire and enjoy the content over many future years.

James McQuilken. Dunseverick. March 2021.



Poems

5 North coast
7 Blade of grass
9 Far stretches of the Foyle
11 Shoreline
13 Dunseverick cottage diary
15 Sunday
17 Towards Geeragh Point
20 Port Moon
21 Over the hedge
22 On the way to Drumnaskallen
23 Safe home
27 Island
29 backdrop
31 As the sunlight catches the white of the seagulls flying
33 Gannet
35 The Peregrine and the Hare
37 Sedgy Glen
39 Rathlin metal rain
41 Yet the shadows come
43 Fionnuala
45 A Cottage evening



North coast

I know where the river
runs dark peat brown

where salmon spring
and the heron stares

nearby a ghost of a shower
with swift vapours of grey

slides across the waves
and the wind spirits rise

as gannets
lunge into the sea – their sky

feasting on stars





La brizna de hierba The Blade of grass
Me enseñsas you show me
the ring of pure green
El anillo de verde puro tied in a true knot
Atado en un nudo verdadero laid round your pale finger
my words are quietened
Puesto alrededor en su pálido dedo
Mis palabras se callan



The far stretches of the Foyle

The wind reminds us
this is no place for trees
as we walk this maze
of marram dunes

I know the path
to the long unsheltered beach

jetsoned with hollow shells

where wind and the hurrying lough
throw us into their heady alchemy

shunting dark waves
through the narrows –

everything shifts here –

Passing the lookout tower
tree-like rooted blown
in with the wind

a voice from its tannoy blasts

Stop
go back the way you came –

we scan
the landscape stares

the permitted beach beckons

we settle with this vast shifting
move with it

like grains of sand

as gulls kite the lough
the sky is tightly drawn to the sea



Shoreline to the heavily wrapped men of Dunseverick
for Jim their ruddy skin barbed
against the blustering cold
Tell me of the boy who lived in the white cottage waiting for the salmon with gaping eyes
the cottage with the piano grabbed by large gloved hands
tucked in the cosy the open fire thrusting them out of the comfortable sea bed
peat stacked
smoke forcing up the chimney into the northern air spouting too at Arthur’s puddle cavern
where the waves gurgle and roar underground
you tell me of Eileen Rosaleen and Alana regurgitating kelp into the air
playing posting letters
through the bedroom’s air vent did you scour the shore for planks and netting
all this in your memory like the quietness then and now
what did the sea give to you
do you hear the dissonance of the birdsong as you made your way to the bend on the road

you tell me of the brisk days
the fishing boat Prospect
a flash of red or ceanothus blue
shying off the rocks
visible between troughs
as it beats into harbour



Dunseverick cottage diary

Monochrome waking

the sky-sea off Rathlin deepening

through the spectrums of grey

charcoal midnight dense

purple slate storm grey

terns scat through the air spooked by the wind
with the weather
or sense the urgency
the same urgency lived

with the sea dark piling into Port na Weelan
Islay not visible



Sea sky island

from the cottage
past the curl of a tree
where time is in the resting place
of the breath
Rathlin sits
not revealing its secrets

while sheep
in the gold of the morning
have their wool stolen by trees and by barbs
that pluck at the soft down
under the bridal spray
of the hawthorn



Towards Geeragh Point

the sea at rest is unrippled
hushed in remembrance of the neapolitan sky
with which it went to sleep last night –
when the sea’s pink light

settled –

now deep blue on blue
the sea
reflective – measured– calm –

is watchful – ruffled by the breeze –





Port Moon

Ten thousand times I’ll ask you
Do you hear the waterfall rippling from the sky

tumbling down its rocky path

through bouldered streams
in its hurry to the sea
where time flows over the basalt

the sky a filtered remnant of night

I see you scan the columns
the cliffs where fulmars cackle nest high-edged

and soar as they meet us eye to eye

in this bird land land of flight

land of sea-chiselled stacks

Over the hedge

near the cottage at sunrise
carrion crows land on the sheep trough

waiting to steal food
while rooks arrive in ones and twos

squash together on their tightrope
cawing who goes first

On the way to Drumnaskallan

sheep make dizzy paths round stacks
to our otherworld of fossils
flat rock-tiles slaves to the sea tides
towards the stretching beach end of arches
caves and eiders

we hear the clattering boulders shift
with each tidal pull each pulls us in
along this jagged coastline of yellow lichen rock maps
from Port-na-weelan
to the white church on the hill

Safe home

Sensing the blue hour
we know its presence

the sunset darkening the horizon
waves rumbling the boulders

light filtering minute by minute
stepping down and down to near night

feeling the moment in our bones
a silent blueness

a don’t-talk-now blueness
becoming part of us and we of it

as black cliffs turn to silhouettes







Island

Lough reeds wait for spring on Rathlin
it’s quiet except for the constant wind
and crows

the hum of this place holds us
we see old buildings old walls
with angles leading the eye

through the tumbledown rooms
to winter-tired trees
growing up through the absent roof

in between walls warm velvet moss
on the moss on the moss for my pillow
it was green and I was gone

the maybes and the maybe-nots
the storm may come it may snow
we’d like to see the seals at Ushet Port

I hope they’ll be there
the lapwing will land
the puffins will be here soon

you will see the ferry
which might not go out tomorrow
but which came in today



backdrop

In this low the weather hangs on a washing line
on a no drying two coat day

in the absence of sea butterflies
it lingers like a winter’s dawn

slate clouds stare at the sea which stares back
as gannets patrol this Sea of Moyle runway

there’s going to be murder on the break water

In Church Bay harbour black backed gulls
are intent on stealing eider ducklings

There’s going to be a new ferry

here where seals are boulders
time is held

on a brisk day the waves bolt
beyond the sea wall



As the sunlight catches the white of the seagulls flying

everyone wants to see a puffin
square ladies and the walking party from Belgium
stepping off the Spirit of Rathlin straight on to Bertie’s bus
heading for West Lighthouse
as we are walking up Sedgy Glen
to the dripping with fuchsia waterfall
passing the open door ferry port church
the always been there church
down the hill from the chapel up the hill
with the make sure you look back view down there
where we watch starlings land in for lunch on the kelp
pecking insects as if they were blueberries
the still life heron posing for hours near the bladderwrack
temporary home of the orange beaked oyster catchers
kleep kleeping as they fly off to the lighthouse



Gannet
for Andrew

Mirror-light from winter moon
slips into morning

splintering
through broken waves

where gannets spear-like
plunge to silvered fish

as late morning falls
hiding the smidirini of rainbow scales

If I could fly would I
would I dive

through the mirror

think
I might break

my neck

would I would I by noon
pierce the waves’ shards –

Smidirini : Irish Gaelic for smithereens



The Peregrine and the Hare

I walk the land at Roonavoolin
past cattle on
grassy banks edged by the cliff

he sits silently on his ledge
I disturb him

his screech rakes through me
sifting centuries
to those who stood here before
who also heard
how the ripple tide
sought sun and moon

I turn

a hare stands hind-legged
proud staring

I tramp his land too
his prize blades of grass
where orchids look stunned by this day
of wispy sky
in seamless reflection
of the sea



Sedgy Glen
For Lily

On that day our Rathlin day
violet fuchsia extreme with beauty

lay gracefully with green leaves
through which we peeped

saw the torrent
saw the frog

the frog sat in his heaven
time of spawn long forgotten

now guarded by the torrent
flung from high ground

water rained



Rathlin metal rain

Sheets of metal strike the fusty weave
of the copse floor

forcing splints to shift
then drift down deep

deeper down the puddled track

further to the shore boulders lie
Selkies beached like metal teardrops

deposits from the Ice age
seals with ice pool eyes
glacier deep



Yet the shadows come - Rathlin

Shadows
come ashore
moving silently ghosts hurrying to
be warmed on hot stones
where we sit

one by one
they come stealthily beneath the crest
midnights of rising wave

I see no sign of them
touching the sea edge

wait

for they rush now
I see them

but there is nothing
in the washed seaweed


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