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Audio: Read by the author. 


After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie was a fugitive in the Scottish Highlands for several months. He died in Italy in 1788, suffering from drink-related ill health. 


Say there was a boat, once, in the glitter of the sun.
Imagine a sky. Water-patched lowlands.

And didn’t they sing, didn’t they all sing?
It is Charlie’s year! Joyful I am he is coming! 

For him, the past, when it returns, as it always does,
more dream of itself than fact—

It is Charlie’s year! Joyful— 
And don’t I need to remember him,

this man who shaped my father’s story,
this man the landscape has forgotten?

Shadows settle, now, on his hand,
on the small table, on his glass—

his the face of a man who only
half knows who he is—

He sits alone, now,
like the last speaker of a lost language,

like my father, a man who never saw Scotland,
country given him as faith,

faith in the faith that the way the story ends
is not the story—

May some mercy find them both.
Let them climb from loss,

as all of us are lifted—
Say there’s a morning when the sea again

deepens to violet as clouds arrive—
It is Charlie’s year! Joyful— 

A fresh scent rises from the hard grass.
Smell of smoke. Wet peat.

Even the Cuillin Hills—
resistant, vast.



Margaret Mackinnon’s work has appeared in Poetry, ShenandoahImage, and other journals. The Invented Child (Silverfish) won the Gerald Cable Book Award and the Library of Virginia Poetry Award. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.



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