Believe in this couple this day who come
to picnic in the Faery Glen. They pay rain
no matter, or wind. They spread their picnic
under a gale-stunted rowan. Believe they grew tired
of giants and heroes and know they believe
in wise tiny creatures who live under the rocks.
Believe these odd mounds, the geologic joke
played by those wise tiny creatures far from
the world’s pitiful demands: make money, stay sane.
Believe the couple, by now soaked to the skin,
sing their day as if dry, as if sheltered inside
Castle Ewen. Be glad Castle Ewen’s only a rock
that looks like a castle. Be glad for no real king.
These wise tiny creatures, you’d better believe,
have lived through it all: the Viking occupation,
clan torturing clan, the Clearances, the World War
II bomber gone down, a fiery boom
on Beinn Edra. They saw it from here. They heard
the sobs of last century’s crofters trail off below
where every day the Conon sets out determined for Uig.
They remember the Viking who wandered off course,
under the hazelnut tree hating aloud all he’d done.
Some days dance in the bracken. Some days go out
wide and warm on bad roads to collect the dispossessed
and offer them homes. Some days celebrate addicts
sweet in their dreams and hope to share with them
a personal spectrum. The loch here’s only a pond,
the monster is in it small as a wren.
Believe the couple who have finished their picnic
and make wet love in the grass, the tiny wise creatures
cheering them on. Believe in milestones, the day
you left home forever and the cold open way
a world wouldn’t let you come in. Believe you
and I are that couple. Believe you and I sing tiny
and wise and could if we had to eat stone and go on.
Richard Hugo was a poet of the Pacific Northwest, yet his renown attests to a stature greater than that of most “regional” poets. In his poems Hugo reflected as much upon the internal region of the individual as on the external region of the natural world, and he considered these two deeply interconnected. According to Frederick Garber, “the landscape where things happen to Hugo goes as far into his mind as it goes outside of it”; Hugo’s poetry “is about the meeting of these landscapes.” The role of the past as a shaping force on the individual predominates. Critics have praised Hugo’s technical skills, the emotional impact of his compressed images, and the casual, sometimes humorous tone of his poems. His characteristic stance as a self-analytic writer, a perceptive observer, and a Westerner is evident in Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo (1984).
—Poem from The Right Madness on Skye, W. W. Norton & Company, 1980