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October 2016, vol 12 no 3

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Guy Stephenson,

A Further Glance at a Geological Map


Dry sellotape flakes from the pages. On the fly leaf, his name is clear — the same stylish sloping block capitals with which he used to annotate his drawings and the date 1970, my father's fifty-fourth year.

Silica glints
deep foraging snout
uproots time

Some pages are loose, some dog-eared, some yellow but the book holds together still; the end-paper map is intact. He had twenty years use of it, exploring and revisiting: Dog's Bay, Dingle and the Causeway; the Mullet, where he and I drove one windy March day, past 'Great Cliffs' and 'The King of Spain's ship.'

Sundew-crown
ericaceous mantle
sphagnum galoshes

But mostly, my eye is drawn to our North West corner of the map, the Limestone Plateau of Sligo/Leitrim, the Marble Arch (where he made waters work) and those mountains to the North where he took us many times and where I have settled.

Watchpig lies on guard —
northern shores
hidden in rain sift

The man who wanted to know where a road led to, found a book with which to unpick a landscape: "A further glance at a geological map shows the prevalence of quartzite - a hard and intractable rock - in the north-western part of Donegal.... Slieve Sneacht, Muckish, the beautiful white cone of Errigal, Slievatooey, Slieve League, for example - are great humps of this resistant material, which have remained while the softer rocks around them have slowly crumbled under the attacks of rain and wind, and for a while, of ice."*

Rain veil shifts —
trotter glimpsed in
light gleaming hill

Left it shelved for another to find as his formidable intellect crumbled before the attacks of prions and a scree of plaque cluttered his heights.

Snow rimes his flanks,
sun-fried salt thrown from
Sheep Haven by squalls

He showed me how to look, that answers are there to be uncovered; that it's ok not to know, mistakes are crucial to understanding

Pig slumbers, knows
nothing of this, waits —
to make another beach.


Notes:

* R L Praeger, The Way That I Went, Allen Figgis and Co, Dublin, 1969.

The mountain called Muckish derives it’s name, via its distinctive pig's back shape, from the Irish ‘an mhucais’ which translates as ‘the pig’.


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