Dispatches from Ireland: Autumn on Inis Meáin

Inis Meáin (Inishmann), the middle of the three Aran Islands. Seaborne, limestone humps at times within sight of the Cliffs of Moher

 August 16th, 2018

Foam flies
overhead
lighter than
dried leaves,
balloon-like
in a skewed slant
that begins
on the wind-driven
tide.IMG_4606

It’s August on
Inis Meáin–
Autumn
says the woman in
the blue floral dress
serving us homegrown
potatoes and
rhubarb pie.

Everywhere else
it’s September
when the weather
closes
but here
the ragged seas,
the daily squalls,
the sun setting by nine
instead of eleven
tells us we’re closer to winter
than summer.

See the sun
she exclaims
pointing out the window
to a descending orb
lost behind clouds.

In summer it sets near
the lighthouse on Inis Mor,
And her eyes move
to the light seas
north of the harbor
across the western channel.IMG_4444

In winter
it sets behind the house there
and she shifts her gaze far south
to the last house
on the western flank of this island,
the last one to seek the shelter
of the headland.IMG_4522

Past the last roof
the chair lies—
the piling of rocks—
on the cliff top
where Synge
brooded
above the enormity
of the Atlantic
as it carved
his foundation
out from under him.

This morning we walked
above the churn,
where sea explodes from
underneath the cliff
like fire
erupting
from a vault.

And do you like it here?
she asks
as if we wouldn’t
as if it might be
too plain and barren for our tastes
like the simple boiled potatoes
in front of us.IMG_4582

Peace and quiet?
she chews on our words a moment
remembering their
full meaning:
the unending dark days,
when no one
walks the wall-bounded lanes
and peat is the only smell inside and out
and you try to open the shadesIMG_4454
of every window
for the light
but end up letting the cold in
through the thin panes.

The young lads
went for a swim
in the harbor today
she says.
They get used it—
the cold.
A glimmer
of a smile
comes to her lips
as she picks up
the plate
empty of potatoes.

IMG_4462

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