Poems of Place

Put Away Your Camera

(Maeshowe, Orkney, Scotland)

I have been here since the beginning.
I am the dance and I am the dancer.
I am the song and I am the singer.
Why are you here?

You enter this sacred space armed and ready to shoot
the low-ceiling passageway, the stone walls,
the domed chamber, the alcoves for bones.
You stack solid facts one on top of another:
30 tonne stones
100,000 man-hours
5,000 years ago.


Put away your camera. Send out the guide.
Turn off the lights.
Just sit and breathe.
Are you here yet?

From every settlement on these windy winter plains,
they come.
They chant and sway.
They beat their drums.
Can you hear them?

The bones of the dead, flesh picked clean by animals,
are gathered by the grandmothers.
Slowly, steadily, reverently, they crouch and crawl
and carry the bones inside.
Can you see them?

Sound and smoke swamp the inner space.
Torches cast flickering light on the stone walls.
Living bodies and bare bones fill the chamber.
Can you smell them?

On winter solstice day, the sun drops from the sky,
the chanting stops, the drums are mute,
the dancers dance no more.
In the throbbing, pulsating silence,
the sun’s rays pierce the chamber
and burst into flame on the stone.

Does your heart crack open
with the beauty of the moment?
Do you float out of your body into the Light?
Do you become one
with the dance of the universe?
Do you become one with
the song of all creation?

Now do you know why you are here?