Confined and captive, how I come and go,
I roam my private archipelago:
Cling the rail in giddy ringing uphill Lisbon trams,
And watch the undulating pavements flow,
Forcing seasick footfall, patterned black and white,
Mimicking the erstwhile drowning earthquake waves,
A tessellated inland Tagus.
I smell the heat of Stradun's marble
Ragusa's sunbaked glittering glory:
Watch in the creek beneath Lavrentis tower,
Looking still for ancient Adriatic fleets,
The silent fishers land their pots,
The moon hung netted from the facing forts:
So perfect that I thought, if now,
It would have been enough, my argosy.
Balestrand, a silent spit of land at fjords'
Footsteps echoing down the empty street
To misty serried mountains chewing deep blue sky;
A brilliant turquoise glacier glowing from the height,
Its ice streams coursing down to mingle at our feet,
And wooden grass-topped houses sprouting wild with flowers.
In moonscape Sutherland, the chasm in the
That cuts the breath, Kylescu curving white and still
As that first crack had been as loud;
Moon mountain, Quinag, magical eternal churn;
My hairpins sand-dune haul to landfall's edge,
Where in the silence catch the lonely corncrake call;
Atlantic breakers roaring up the mainland wall:
Wet mountaineers, with puffins perched at every turn.
And finally, where first I wept to see such hills:
The softly flowing Tweed where I shall end.
Wait for me, secret heron, I shall not be long,
To join the jumping trout at day's end at the river bend.
This is basically a remembrance of those of our holidays which she had hoped to repeat but was coming to realise she could not. It is not my favourite of poems since all but the final verse reads too much like a shopping list for my taste.
That final verse was added later. It refers to a visit to Innerleithan, from 19-23 April, during which she decided that she wanted to have her ashes scattered there, in the River Tweed. I discovered this piece after her death, about a week before doing precisely that.
It was that trip, which totally exhausted her, that finally made her realise that more than a day or two away from home would always be too much for her, and that those dreamed-of holidays could not become reality.
"Where first I wept to see such hills" is a back-reference of about thirty years, to the time of her divorce from her first husband. Early in our relationship, she told me that she was at that time so close to having a nervous breakdown that a friend told her she had to take an immediate holiday, and recommended the Scottish borders as being especially relaxing. Somehow or another, she arrived at Innerleithan, where the beauty of the landscape caused her to break down in tears: she was a city-girl through and through, with no experience of "real" country.
On 12 April, Sandra wrote to BG
With regard to writing, I need to find headspace for my writing - my poetry. I have many fragments awaiting attention - some nearer completion than others. I have so little time and I need to focus. I don't think you have ever seen any of my writing. SD (professional occupation publisher's editor) is thinking about how to get a slim volume published. It will be my testament. I am attaching the latest two for your interest. "Thief" was written, almost straight off, a few days after getting the latest news. With regard to "Destination", coming back from a deeply upsetting visit to the hospital, I was talking to Roger about all the places where we shall now not now be able to go, and all I can do will be travel in my mind. He said I should write about that, so, remembering that I have recently discovered I can in fact write "to commission" I sat down and started it and within a very short while I had the shape and the final stanza, and the rest followed in short order. I have now tidied it and here it is. It took a few days to finish off. It is very personal, so some of the references will be oblique to the reader. "Quinag" is the Gaelic name for a mountain in Sutherland, and means "milk churn".