She was just back home

She was just back, just back home. After years away the world she had known looked different, and people looked at her differently. She had changed too, of course, you could see that in her eyes if she ever allowed you to look into them.

She was asleep and flinching in dreams when the window broke. The half brick hit the cot and glass showered across the room. She screamed and screamed as she picked glass from her baby’s face. Her father ran into the room, face pale, eyes wild. He saw blood on his grandson’s head.

She went to the funeral, of course she did. He was her father, her son’s grandfather. Dressed in black she stood next to her mother in the grey mist and rain. Together they raised their eyes to the sky and the rain mixed with their silent tears. Tomorrow they would move away, the woman, the girl and her boy, move far away from their home, move to a place where their past was not known, where the past did not shadow their lives.

First published on 01 March 2019

We broke bread

we broke bread together
and then
we broke the ground
burned dried branches
and spread the ashes on the broken ground

many years later
when neither you nor I
were here
the new trees grew
and houses became homes

we do not need
to be remembered
the buds on the trees
and the hands on the door handle

Come, break down my house

Come, break down my house.
Come, break it down with your hammers
your bulldozers and ugly angry men.

Break it down, cut down the trees,
turn the bricks to dust, the branches to ashes.
It smelled good the olive wood smoke
when it burned in my hearth.
Now it claws in my throat.

My house is gone, the trees are now cut.
My family stand in the swirling dust
and you laugh.

Laugh, laugh if you will,
but know this.
My house may be gone
but I have breathed in its dust.
My hair smells of the smoke of my trees.
My house may be gone.
My house may be gone.
But my home will always be here.

Home is where

When I told my friends I was going home, they knew the house I meant; the house I had been born in seven or eight years before. You can never play for long enough but I knew it was time to go home if my da wasn’t to come looking for me with the dog. So I went home, to the house I had been born in, the only home I’d known or would know for twenty years.

When my friends asked me where I was going on holiday, I’d say I was going home and they’d laugh. But that’s what my ma called the island, that’s where she called home. She’d been away ten years now, and would be away for forty more, but every summer she took us all home to granda’s on the island.

I was at home there too, and my brothers, when we went out on our granda’s boat or watched him watching the tide against the light, eyes slits of green. It was my home as much as it was ma’s, it was home as much as the house I’d been born in. Aunts visited every day and ma’s friends we called Auntie, hair ruffling, old chocolate gifting. Then one summer the curtains were closed for a year when nanna left us.

In my twenties my home was in the deep sky-blue south, sun and sea, friends and just enough. My da said I made my home there. But it takes more than making to make a home. A home needs to be, to become and be. And once it is, it always will be. Now when I go back to visit where was my home on the sea, in the sun, I am at home with my friends. As soon as we arrive I breathe deep the air of home, I feel the calm warm quiet in the eye of the world’s storms, and our home here, our home in the city, is out of mind until we return.

When we are in the south, home is where our friends are, home is how we feel, not where we are. At home on the sand, at home asleep under the pines, at home late at night round the fire on the roof.

Back in the north, we watch from the top of the worn mountain as crystal light streams into the melting haar. We can see our house from here, now the mist has drawn back to the sea. Our house, our home, where many have been and many have gone. Home where our families became family, where our friends became family, where the heart is.

I have been to many places and have lived in many. Home is the magnet that pulls our hearts, circles become spirals and funnel slowly to the centre of our world. Years ago I saw a poem that said that home is with you, breathing slow beneath the skins. And now I know it is.

First published as part of Scotland’s Stories of Home April 2014