Misty spruce islands east of Isle au Haut.
Misty spruce islands east of Isle au Haut.

On sailing merchant ships, immigrants
Arrived, dozens through Ellis Island, as
Many as not, leaving Scotland, Sweden,
France, landing in Nova Scotia and on
Maine islands, seeking new life, many
With children, few possessions, settling
On islands east of Isle au Haut.*

Spruce-tree covered rocky outcroppings,
Islands were several acres, spruce thickets
Overlooking grey-green waters, north-wind
Battered, frozen-spray encrusted, life strug-
Gling on cold womb of stone, gelid waves
Tumbling on defiant rocky shores, too
Distant from Green’s Landing hearth fires.

Gradually families cleared trees, built log
Cabins, stark and unadorned, moved stones
By hand, pasturelands made, cattle brought
Ashore, fishing boats set sail, by hard work
And perseverance, life took root like stolid
Evergreens, gaining foothold in summer,
Struggling to survive ocean-winter cold.

Meanwhile, Swede and Italian stonecutters
Worked granite quarries on nearby Crotch
Island, hand-drilling, packing holes with
Black gunpowder, they exposed the island’s
Rosy stone breast, massive raw granite slabs.
By 1890, busy boat harbor became Stonington,
Skilled immigrants shaping life of Maine.

Progress and growth, settlers clear cut islands,
Natural resources lost, denuded by man and
Erosion, no natural barriers against slashing
Winter storms, islands became uninhabitable,
Abandoned, as fishers on steamboats moved
To Stonington shores, islands reduced to
Bleak anchorages, challenged by wind and sea.

One-hundred years brought renewal, spruces
Taking root anew, reclaiming barren islands
Where nothing else dared to grow, nature’s
Sanctuary for seabirds, occasional winter
Chickadees venturing to sapling homes, these
Misty islets have returned to their natural stony
State, regrowth along the rocky coast of Maine.

This poem was inspired by visiting these Maine islands and
curated poem 
“The Denuded Island” by Wilbert (Bill) Snow.

* Pronounced like “Isle of Hoe,” French for “High Island.”

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