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The Finished House

I have always loved the prose and poetry of George Mackay Brown, whom I met in 1976 in Stromness on the Orkney Mainland. (They call it the Mainland, even though it’s an island.) I have visited there twice, both times in bad weather, which I think is the only kind of weather prevailing there.

The Finished House

In the finished house a flame is brought to the hearth.
Then a table, between door and window
Where a stranger will eat before the men of the house.
A bed is laid in a secret corner
For the three agonies – love, birth, death –
That are made beautiful with ceremony.
The neighbours come with gifts –
A set of cups, a calendar, some chairs.
A fiddle is hung at the wall.
A girl puts lucky salt in a dish.
The cupboard will have its loaf and bottle, come winter.
On the seventh morning
One spills water of blessing over the threshold.

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