Memories of islands


One summer when the wind fell

The air is always clear, however fast it moves. When the wind fell the air stilled, and soon the sea was smooth. We caught the little ferryboat to Shapinsay to see my mother. In the distance ripples reflected the sun like sequins; under the keel the water was transparent. We leaned over the side to watch a seal swimming, relaxed and playful, in the weed on the sea-floor metres below.

West Mainland

Miles of empty grass
not even trees to hide the lines of the low hills.
It feels so old and calm,
layers of centuries dreaming of times even older,
memories of struggle and battle and love and life
which hardly touched it then,
and now replay faint echoes.
Close your eyes: you can touch all those who have lived here
through the tolerance of the ancient land.


Half-way across Hoy we came upon a tiny burn,
clear bright brown glinting through the heather and flowers around.
It cut deep through the peat, winding prettily
and splashing over stones
into a pool beneath a bank.

Childhood in Barbados


A hot day in the hurricane season
at the end of the garden behind a wood-built hotel
a wood full of old stunted trees and thick undergrowth.
Not frightening but welcoming;
birds rustling and singing
in the tangled bushes which shut out the sound of the wind.
The wood ended,
I came out to the light,
and, sheltered by the bamboo,
watched the wild sea crash on the reef.

The fish

Such a tiny lagoon, perfect child-size
Still and safe within the reef.
In the centre of the pool, a black rock alone in the sand.
I learned to swim underwater
to watch its fish;
bright colours flashing in their pale green air
as they circled around the rock-castle.

Made April 2006
by Elisabeth