High Island

By Richard Murphy

A shoulder of rock
Sticks high up out of the sea,
A fisherman’s mark
For lobster and blue-shark.

Fissile and stark
The crust is flaking off,
Seal rock, gull rock,
Cove and cliff.

Dark mounds of mica schist,
A lake, mill, and chapel,
Roofless, one gable smashed,
Lie ringed with rubble.

An older calm,
The kiss of rock and grass,
Pink thrift and white sea-campion,
Flowers in the dead place.

Day keeps lit a flare
Round the north pole all night.
Like brushing long wavy hair
Petrels quiver in flight.

Quietly as the rustle
Of an arm entering a sleeve,
They slip down to nest
Under altar stone or grave.

Round the wrecked laura
Needles flicker
Tacking air, quicker and quicker
To rock, sea, and star.

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