As the sun slipped towards the horizon, the people came. Hats and scarves and bulky warm coats belied the warm atmosphere, fingers cupped hot mulled fruit punch and tucked mince pies into grateful mouths. Chatter rose and fell as people greeted one another and exclaimed about the turnout. The chill air was lit by the sunset and hundreds of twinkling fairy lights; as the Christmas carols began they floated into the wide open sky and joined the cries of gulls and gannets.
This was the first outdoor carol concert at Dunbar Battery, and to say we were surprised to have at least two hundred people come join us on a cold December afternoon…well, it was an early Christmas present for everyone who had been involved in organising it. Mostly we sang the beloved songs of Christmas, but there was time for a short message and a short poem too. Here’s the poem I wrote and read that afternoon, under the cold indigo sky, wondering if our ancient predecessors knew they were remembered…
let’s warm ourselves –
are those cold wee fingers,
stiffened by winter’s clasp,
What, friends, do we really need?
something more than
a wave across the street?
an absent-minded shoulder pat?
a swift hug?
let’s learn the old stories,
the good ones
like that holy woman – Bey –
down by the shore
Was it really so long ago
she lived on the edge
of our fledgling town
waves lapping at her small cave
birds and seals her neighbours –
was she lonely in her solitude?
was she enfolded by the folk nearby?
remember the old stories
the odd ones –
like Baldred of the Bass Rock
a strange, sacred life
Centuries have traced
of myth and wonder –
but did he really ride great rocks to a safer shore?
was he really so beloved
three graves were barely enough
to contain his hallowed memory?
there are more ancient stories here
ones to rend your tender heart –
think of Thenew
Traprain’s forsaken princess
How did she bear her father’s cold scorn?
survive each blow and keep faith?
solace a gift from bird and fish and seal,
in her most bitter abandonment
did divine compassion bring her to a distant shore
and bear beauty from the ashes of her grief?
thawed by blazing hope
and we wonder with our forebears
that the Light of the world is here, now
© Vicky Allen 2017