The many summers in the seaward skerries, they always
remained. A simple cottage, no electricity, a table,
a couple of chairs and a bunk bed
where they slept like siblings. The kitchen equipment
was junk; they took turns at
making boeuf stroganoff in the coffee pot. Even
then he let her do the talking,
long before they retired.
She dreamed of men in grey, he of
ignored call-up papers. If there was a gale
he might sit on the veranda and
observe how the gulls lay in the wind. She thought
on the journey over, how
the gentlemen had led the whooping ladies
over the shining parquetry. Jitterbug!
Sometimes the farm workers came rattling by
on their poison carts, armed to the teeth like soldiers.
Out in the shallow bay
stood a half-upturned tree that had stayed
under water. A few green leaves always stuck
out on the uppermost branches, like
as SOS flag from the underworld. Every summer
they were going to salvage the tree, chop it down,
burn it up, whatever. But it was never
done. Year after year it stood there with
its arms raised, struggled its way step by step
closer to the shore. When it got there
they had learned how to die.