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Away Home


There is a long white

road shining dully up

the hill under the moon.

Silence is solid


and the cold is

to wade through,

but out there long

after midnight someone


is hammering,

too strong and regular

to be an animal

or accident,


and there’s only

a ghost of wind.

I walk on,

the drum beat


somewhere ahead

and to the right.

This is a small

distance, half a mile,


only seven hundred years

in the dark

to drag the mind

through a bog


of imagination.

It is a shed door

of course

or a farm gate bent


and off its hinges.

A light

in the distance

fogs as though


in water.

The fairies,

you know,

it could be them.



© Hugh McMillan

Picture 12347931, woodcut by Molly MacArthur, 1925, image copyright Mary Evans / Florence Mary Anderson Collection



Hugh McMillan is a poet from Penpont in South West Scotland. His work has been published widely in Scotland and beyond, and he has won various prizes, most recently the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2017 for Sheep Penned, published by Roncadora; he won the same award in 2009 for Postcards from the Hedge. He has been a winner in the Smith|Doorstop Prize and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, and has also been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award and the Basil Bunting Award. Not Actually Being in Dumfries: New and Selected poems was published by Luath Press in 2015 as were in 2018 the poetry collections Heliopolis, and The Conversation of Sheep, the latter in collaboration with a local shepherd. He has featured in many anthologies, and three times in the Scottish Poetry Library’s online selection Best Scottish Poems of the year. His poems have also been chosen three times to feature on National Poetry Day postcards, the latest in 2016. In 2017 he was writer in residence at the Harvard Summer School. In 2019 his collaboration Elspeth Buchan an the Blash o God featured at the Wigtown Book Festival and the Scottish Poetry Library. He currently curates #plagueopoems a daily series of poems filmed from lockdown. In 2020 he was chosen as one of four ‘Poetry Champions’ for Scotland, to seek out and commission new work. His website is at