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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.'

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.


* 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’.