If Ezekiel’s watchman, or, rather, God’s
had been on the job there would have been
some sort of heads-up – a cornet perhaps
if not a fanfare – that the Parish Church clock,
put in place in 1867,
would be chiming again, hours and quarters,
this summer morning. But it just happens –
almost surreptitiously, like some
member of the chorus in an opera
sneaking on late from the wings. And late it is
by a few minutes – as before it was fast.
Such churlishness, some would say, is tantamount
to treason – as the Prime Minister
of one of the earth’s richest countries,
though singlehandedly it seems fighting off
phalanxes of invisible foes, finds time
to fly to the Orkneys for a photo-op
with a couple of large crabs on the deck
of a trawler in Kirkwall harbour,
and speak with officer-class passion about
the abstract benefits of the Union –
the English monarchy’s first colonies –
whose strength has helped us through…and will again…
As Benjamin Franklin – who chased lightning,
with an iron rod, on a horse – once said, “Tricks
and Treachery are the practice of fools,
that do not have brains enough to be honest”.
And I recall that the name of the church –
built in local sandstone for a burgeoning,
provincial bourgeoisie – is All Saints,
so no bases or bets left uncovered there.
Nevertheless, when I hear the chimes
and watch my live-in gardener – whom
I have loved for nearly sixty years –
building a rockery in assorted stone
with alpines and lavender, there is some sense
of re-setting if not re-winding the clock.
Suddenly, out of the purple buddleia –
an import from China, nationalists
should note, that self-seeds particularly well
in ravaged, industrial wastelands –
a dragonfly appears, metallic green,
with fluttering wings, translucent, pale,
and disappears somewhere beyond the hosta
and the agapanthus. I learn, instantly,
it was a female banded demoiselle,
its habitat slow-moving muddy streams.
Beneath the garden and the house – a fort
against the dark – was a pond and a brook
speculative builders filled with rubble
more than two decades before the church was built.
That fragile creature of breath-taking beauty,
like a prophetess, divined the lost waters.
agapanthusbanded demoisellebuddleiachinadragonflyEzekielGodhostaKirkwallOrkneysprime minister