First morning light, blustery walk on stone-piled
Beach, skies red-streaked, father with me, pipe
Puffing, fishing boots, walking along side (or
Far ahead), concerns for dirty weather on Outer
Hebridean Isles. “They’ll be watching like we
Are, Willow,” he advised of fisherfolk. “Warm
Southerly gales descending on cold waters. Will
Be fog tonight,” he said of restless North Atlantic. 

With good reason, off-islanders would think
Winter storms were worst. For our fishers, end
Of sailing skiff season, fall was worst, wind,
Black caldron tides, waves rock crashing: sea-
Stacks, ragged outliers, surf-breaking along
Safe-roosting beaches. As hours wore on,
Conditions worsened, first few hard-sailing,
Fish-heavy boats returned.

Weary island men, women struggled getting
Boats ashore, sharp knives, herring gutting,
Barrel packing, long, hard labours before
Impending storm, into night, into fog, we
Worked at long fish-offal tables by rows of
Lantern lights. But what of our men, still at
Sea? Beyond pitching bow, was nothingness,
Strong backs rowing for home shores. 

Night glimmer, swinging lantern lights, one-
By-one, fishing boats arrived at water’s edge,
High upon beaches pulled. Hope, faith,
Prayer, sea-plights made for weary nights.
“We stayed out too long, fished too far from
Shore, fought tide and wind until our backs
Were broken.” Shot of whiskey, bucket bath,
Cottage bed, fisherfolk survived fall sea gales. 

For more on island “herring lasses,” click this link.
Thanks for reading. 

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