Today's poem is by Tom Pow


West Cork, Ireland

Today in the lee of the islands of Sherkin,
Castle, Calf, Clear and Hare, the small island
of Skeam East turns like a ragged butterfly
in a blue, wingless sea. Roaring Water Bay

can never have seemed so inaptly named.
In the fields above the island ruins, Dan and I,
the sun on our shirtless backs, pick mushrooms
in an idly purposeful way. They're everywhere,

extended families of milky white heads
shining in the summer's still cropped green.
And the houses, I ask — a scatter of stone husks
above the landside bay — when were they

abandoned? Hard to say: famine some; others
as late as the fifties. A hundred years or so
of a drifting death. I'm pulled to the island's
furthest edge, fooled by a handful of bone-

white crab shells. Water slaps into beaker-
smooth gulleys. An open boat chugs past, the dull
plops of lobster pots measuring the silence.
Together we fill a bucket with mushrooms

and cache them in a mesh of broken ferns;
then go off in search of more, strolling
aimfully through the open fields, leaving few
for those who'll come after. 'Stuff 'em!'

I agree. Later as our families trail back
across the spit of land to where Dan's boat
tugs at the slightly less sandy beach, I idle
in a ruin, crouching below the rafters'

stone slots. The small windows have turned
from the landscape around them. Like a vegetable
beneath a box bed, I am brushed by the spores
of a shadow life the light can't touch.

That night our cornucopia of mushrooms
boil down into a mess of slipper ashes,
into the salty, blue-black ink of themselves.
Their juices colour everything they touch

with a fisherman's dye. It's the colour
of cold hearths, of a louring sky, of the grit
at the sea's edge after the storm has passed
and the Wreckers' eyes shine in the darkness.

Copyright © 2003 Tom Pow All rights reserved
from Landscapes and Legacies
Iynx Publishing / Dufour Editions
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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