Letters from the Island

The scrubland moistens round your feet at every spongy step,
And there's a cave under the south cliff
That thuds like a dull cannon to the lashes of the sea.
Over the slope, a baldy pebbled beach dragged by slimy seaweed.
You feel that if you cupped your hands to lift
The water, it would look a drowned grey-green.

A spring spurts peatish on the hill.
We've stood there, bare in the rain,
And laughed and sang the seagulls hoarse.
And then we'd wander off apart-
Happy when we sought each other out.

And when we slept the day
And crouched, reading in the night,
Keeping lit the flur of turf, and brewing tea,
The paraffin-mellow glimmer burning at our eyes.

Just once there was a calmness in the sky,
When the ridge of pines stopped fighting.
And he talked his heart onto the moon.
There was no closeness that was close enough.
We tried to grind our bones into the rock-
to drown the gash of water throbbed in the cave
By our own hot gasps.

All night the wind and rain
Whee'd and oo'd around our shack.
He lit the lamp.
And I, in our warm cove of blankets,
Watched his naked shadow darkening the rafters.
Early in the weak washed light I try
To think the thoughts that move his sleeping face.

But the boat will come tomorrow.

Joan Newmann

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