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Hunting Guga

Published on:
May 17, 2021
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1 min.
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Dawn. The boat is bubbled in a sun
levelling itself with the flat sea. After
six hours, Sula Sgeir rises like a molar
on the horizon. Prehistoric shelters

cling to the rock like limpets while
a hermit's ruined chapel defies gusts
and guano. Men of Ness scale the cliffs,
setting up camp in the beehive houses.

Two weeks are spent catching guga -
gannet chicks - caught with a pole
that lifts each from their nest before
being passed onto the next man

who strikes it dead with a heavy rock,
then onto the next man who removes
its scimitar neck before the next man
takes it to the highest point and lets wind

strip the feathers before the next man
places it on a peat fire before the next
man scrapes the carcass clean, splitting
it from end to end. Cuts are made

in the empty vessel for the pickling brine.
A broch of guga grows taller each day
while the number of men shrinks each
year. Birds are sent down a chute

to a waiting trawler, while Sula Sgeir
is turned priest-black by the morning rain,
ready to take penance from the next man
and the next man and the next and the next. 

Christian Ward
Christian Ward is a UK based writer who can be currently found inCulture MattersandPoetry and Places. Future poems will be appearing inSein Und WerdenandThe Pangolin Review. After a recent difficult period struggling to cope with difficult mental health issues and the breakdown of his marriage, he has found solace in God.

Cover image by Dan Gold

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