“Portrait of Marushka,” Alphonse Mucha, 1905, WikiArt.

Part 2: Desperate Discoveries

Life on Outer Hebrides islands, perspectives,
Sights narrowed, as if ocean viewed from ship
Porthole, I, Willow, never ventured beyond our
Foreshores. Upon fishing-croft landed, Jannet
And her son, Kamden, Gaelic-Norse village
Reclaimed, restored after Scottish clearances.
Greeted by fisher-folk, arms, cottages opened,
Death averted, Kamden roused from fever-fits,
Tea sips, spoonfuls of fruit-mixed porridge,
Scone bites given, resting near hearth-fires.

“What is this place?” Jannet asked, few phrases
Understood, accents foreign to island ears. “We
Are called Tarskavaig, stout woman advised, tall,
Hands man-strong, Hremsa named, grey eyes
Sea-reflecting, Viking blood within her veins
Deep-flowed. Jannet, toddler son, and I room
Given, seaward window, feather bed, pillows,
Such comforts never known. “Plotting my
Escape, I am,” Jannet whispered. “Leaving
Husband and Hebrides, Kamden was not ill.”

“Risked our lives saving you, this foul scheme,”
I returned, ire, tears brimming, father’s prayers,
Worried nod, Jannet’s tearful pleas, me accom-
Panying her, but to where, to what end? “Listen,
Child,” she said, arm gripping. “Island is dying,
Two years’ peat remaining, then we die.” “How?”
“Ever eavesdrop on men, holding parliament
Meetings? Disaster from families concealed,
Dark secrets kept.” How I felt betrayed, having
Seen men round peat-pits, long-faced talking.

Seascape with Sailing Ship…” Anton Melbye, 1844, WikiArt.

Death by thousand cuts, years of slicing into
Peat, pony Beven’s baskets heavy, in naiveté,
I stacked peat into air-drying piles, necessary
For cooking, heating, night fires. Desperate
Discoveries Jannet made, concerns for son,
Their future, island she escaped, but what of
Me, my family – father’s deliberate silence?
If I, Willow, were to leave, my family I would
Tell, face-to-face, terse goodbyes, Yet, Jannet
Had more discoveries to reveal.

After my own recent “ocean passage,” few days were needed
to catch-up on poetry. What role will enigmatic Hremsa have?
Whilst an actual Scottish village, Tarskavaig mentioned in this
poem is fictional. Thanks for reading. 

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