“Fisherman’s Daughter,” Jules Breton, WikiArt photo.

Part 5: Celtic Guiding Voices (Last)

Storm petrels we are, wing-darting tween
When, where,” Hremsa stated, steerboard-
Steady, groaning sailing dory, shredding
Sails, returning, if not wind-squalled from
Deific heights. Weight of learnt wisdom,
Celtic-sighted voices, saddened courage,
hopes dimmed, secret currents, homeward
Ocean passage. When parents die, so will
Island life: crofting, fishing, shepherding
On Outer Hebridean isles, or so I feared.

Upon home island shores, light glimmered,
Cloud-breaking, illuminated by reassuring
Thoughts: “Willow, realize what you know,
Use to avail.” Like Jannet, I eavesdropped
On men-only parliament meetings. Pipe-
Puffing, man-made decisions affecting us
All, women, children without say. Evening
Fires, I asked, “Papa, how much peat does
Our island have?” “Enough, many years.”
Then asked, “Why your concern?”

“I fear we follow dwindling auks,” I replied.
Ocean-diving birds, thousands roosting on
Towering sea-stacks, killed for food, eggs,
Fewer mating pairs each year. Strong-backed
Swimmer, Papa related, as I was his only
“Aukling.” Long walks, hand-in-hand, peat
Pits we surveyed, dark laceration in fragile
Grasslands, perhaps five, 10 years remained.
“Next year we ship produce to mainland,”
He advised, “efforts keeping families intact.”

“Young Woman in a Field,” Jules Breton, WikiArt.

“Long as your mother and I live on the island,
Willow, we will prosper,” he said, clutching
Hard my hand. “Nowhere else will we live.”
His words, my heart struck, first grey hair at
His temple, on rocky paths, few wavering
Steps, walking-stick steadied. Was island end
In sight? Not if I could prevent it. Herbal teas
Mother, father daily given. Celtic guiding voices
At parliament offered. Men listened, families
Acted – and in hillside solitude, I wept.

Thanks for reading this five-part Willow poem.
After this series of poems, I’m taking a break.

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