Niall Campbell

Niall Campbell is a poet originally from the Western Isles of Scotland. His first collection, Moontide, was published by Bloodaxe in 2014 and was the winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year and the inaugural Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. First Nights, collecting poems from Moontide alongside new work, will be published in the U.S. in Autumn 2016 as part of The Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets.


An Eel, A Singing Bird, A Silver Coin

These are my favourite stories: where a sealskin
is found by the grey rockpools by the sea,

or a sickly girl, when other cures have failed,
is starved for a week –

and whoever flayed the skin was perfect:
it lifting thin but whole, dark as handled silk,

and when the week’s gone, the girl sickens-up
an eel, a singing bird, and a silver coin,

and soon he sleeps in it, dreaming he is
a moving sea and it his brighter surface,

and there her singing bird dies on the stones,
while her thin eel slips off beneath the door,

and now he’s waist-deep in the ocean, turning
inside the current, launching his spent waves,

and since it’s all that’s left, the girl picks up
her silver coin, and swallows it again –

Sometimes, who would want comfort? Young, in love,
but it’s defeat, now, that seems the good honey:

being the girl who’s empty but for silver,
the man who’s naked but for a coat of salt.

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