by Yvonne Gray

You edged
through darkness, tracing
the lines of longitude north.

The engine droned
and wing lights pulsed
as you followed the path

of the swallow
the little redjewelled traveller
which came each year

before the rainy season
skimming the lake, darting
along the willowlined shore.

Your heart constricted
when you saw the ring
clasped to its fragile leg.

Tsoka, tsoka, bad luck!
the children would shriek
clutching their stones.

in the simmerdim
of windswept islands

where fishermen
still fear to turn
a boat widdershins

you ring a swallow for yourself
open your hands
and cast it free.

Simmerdim:  the twilight hours around midnight
in June and July in the Northern Isles (Orcadian / Shetlandic).
Widdershins:  anticlockwise (Scots).