The 38th annual Arkansas Scottish Festival was held at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas on April 7th - April 9th. This was the first time I'd ever attended. I'm sad to say I didn't even know the festival existed until last year. On Saturday, April 8th, a group of friends and I made the several-hour trek, determined to enjoy everything we could.
The weather was glorious, all bright, bonnie sunlight and mild temperatures. Seemed mother nature approved of the festivities. The campus was appropriately kitted out, and nearly everyone in attendance was properly *ahem* kilted out.
Bagpipes playing, we ate meat pies--- well, mine was a 5-cheese mac & cheese pie--- watched clans parade their colors, got sunburned (darn our fair, Celtic skin), and wanted the day to last forever.
There were a host of competitions, everything from Scottish/Irish dance-offs, sheep dog trials, Tartan races, a Celtic poetry competition, piping and drum trials, even a bonniest knees competition (i.e. blindfolded lasses caressing kilted kneecaps 😇).
In the spirit of competition, I entered the poetry contest--brushing off and sprucing up my Kelpie poem. Because, why wouldn't I commemorate the day with a verse about a monstrous creature that roams the waterways looking for innocent people to carry off to a watery grave...this is me we're talking about.
The days since the festival were quick to put me back in my dull routine, though I would still hear the occasional deep bellow of a pipe in my head. Something about bagpipe music gets in my bones and refuses to let go.
The week passed steadily. After all thoughts of the festival were just a pleasant memory--after I stopped peeling from my sunburn--out of the blue, 2 days ago, I received an envelope in the mail from Lyon College. It contained a single check for $50. Guess whose little, dark dirge won 2nd place in the Scottish Festival's Poetry contest?!?!
So, here's to you, my dear Kelpie----
In the Waters Dark and Deep
In the waters dark and deep,
where none of sunlight dare to go,
there in the cold and brackish depths,
lie the souls of those you once did know.
As black as death, as white as ice,
with teeth as sharp as bone-strength,
the fetid, foul, monstrous steed,
makes its hollow far beneath.
Take heed along the water,
trust not the feeble mare,
her wretched, dripping mane,
a sign you must take care.
Though her trembling begs your pity,
her act, beguiling, is but a ruse,
no tender heart throbs within her frame,
as life's fragile thread, she seeks to undo.
Touch not the creature stood before you,
lest your timid grasp, held-fast,
no earnest plea will save you,
as her watery web is cast.
Far below, where cries fall silent,
and those who'd help know not your plight,
the Kelpie claims your ghost to sate her hunger,
your flesh and bone, seized in savage rite.
-- e.a.s. demers