Last week due to the kindness of two great friends and fellow writers five us (the Famous Five indeed – it was definitely the sort of place they would have adventured in or got marooned on) stayed overnight on Holy Island.
What touched me most about the Island, was not its Christian heritage but the history of the land and its people, who like the bone pillar (in my poem below) struggled for survival on an island where sands shifted with every tide; a place of isolation, migration, erosion, sand and wind blown, at its best when visitors depart with the tide and the swifts take possession, darting in and out of the great priory ruins.
The sea was indigo that late afternoon and the sky was vast, a blue vault of billowing cloud. I thought I saw the island’s shape mirrored in the sky. I looked for ghosts but saw none. I heard none and wasn’t fortunate enough to catch the seals singing. What I did catch was the drift of a pagan cry which found its way into my poem – here are the first two stanzas..
Bone pillar, Viking thigh,
or some such foreigner undiminished
by the wind, always the wind, wearing
stone, colour of herring’s eye.
No one bound your fingers in cloots to
keep out salt; cured you in smoke.
Cuddy’s bead, seal meat
spineless holed to see the sky
under moon devil’s stone, wind,
always the wind whispering by, in the cold
bents of the Snook, no hiding in the dunes
to escape the grasping tide.
We also visited the beautiful Howick Hall Gardens which were full of flowers and colour still. It was a great adventure – many, many thanks to Erica and Anne.