Orkney Interior

Ian Hamilton Finlay
Doing what the moon says, he shifts his chair
Closer to the stove and stokes it up
With the very best fuel, a mixture of dried fish
And tobacco he keeps in a bucket with crabs

Too small to eat. One raises its pincer
As if to seize hold of the crescent moon
On the calendar which is almost like a zodiac
With inexplicable and pallid blanks. Meanwhile

A lobster is crawling towards the clever
Bait that is set inside the clock
On the shelf by the wireless—an inherited dried fish
Soaked in whisky and carefully trimmed

With potato flowers from the Golden Wonders
The old man grows inside his ears.
Click! goes the clock-lid, and the unfortunate lobster
Finds itself a prisoner inside the clock,

An adapted cuckoo-clock. It shows no hours, only
Tides and moons and is fitted out
With two little saucers, one of salt and one of water
For the lobster to live on while, each quarter-tide,

It must stick its head through the tiny trapdoor
Meant for the cuckoo. It will be trained to read
The broken barometer and wave its whiskers
To Scottish Dance Music, till it grows too old.

Then the old man will have to catch himself another lobster.
Meanwhile he is happy and takes the clock
Down to the sea. He stands and oils it
In a little rock pool that reflects the moon.

From Ian Hamilton Finlay: Selections, published by University of California. Copyright © 2011 by Ian Hamilton Finlay. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Ian Hamilton Finlay: Selections, published by University of California. Copyright © 2011 by Ian Hamilton Finlay. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Ian Hamilton Finlay

by this poet

poem
When I have talked for an hour I feel lousy—
Not so when I have danced for an hour:
The dancers inherit the party
While the talkers wear themselves out and
          sit in corners alone, and glower.