tangle dyke


Naked old man
unshivering upon
lichen-clad stones
through northern storms. Your
strength stolen by over a hundred
lean harvests
denied though

Atlantic breakers
still beach Westray
kelp ready for dragging
and laying. Blanket-
flaying your yieldless
back with salt-stinging
winds. Industry

never profits the straight
workers. Just
unlabouring landlords take
the fruit. You
are shown hard-
built walls
for your efforts. But time

and time outrun
the storms. Faster
milk flows easier
than your heavy
crop. The winds
blow in one
certain direction past

the strand line. Now the lichen
softens and white
sand runs through the gaps
in your stern face, blind
and staring at
the same old tangled
waves rejected, unturning.

Note about tangle dykes

Tangle dykes are low stone walls that were once used for drying seaweed (or ‘tangle’) in Orkney. Seaweed was used in all sorts of products and for a while was a major export and source of livelihoods. But for some time now the tangle dykes have stood unused. The picture above was taken near Grobust beach, on Westray’s west coast, which bears the full force of Atlantic storms that uproot the seaweed and deposit it on the shore.

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