We came to Isle Ronan by boat,
thinking we had left forever the grey seals
of Aran, but their cousins sprawled on our new island’s
rocks, drying their fur in the sun. The incoming tide
pulled us through the waves
to the place where we built this cabin.
Flanked by salal and rhododendron, the cabin
grew from that one room, everything brought by boat.
We rafted the cookstove over the waves,
nearly capsized, log-rolled it up the beach. Seals
eat their fish raw, but not the Kilronans. We dug clams at low tide,
gathered wild onions in the sea grass on the far side of the island.
Why did we move out here to the island,
ferry our goods to this cabin,
live where the currents battle the tide,
where winter storms halt the weekly ferryboat?
Don’t ask me, ask those grey seals,
Rolling and diving through the waves.I was born within sound of these waves.
Your grandfather sailed the midwife to the island.
For baptism, your grandmother held me up to the seals.
Then came your mother and we added on to the cabin.
Your Aunt Rosaleen was born on the ferryboat,
right at the change of the tide,
that’s why she was restless. The tide
pulled her as the moon pulls the waves.
Like all the Kilronans, she knew her way around a boat,
but our life was never enough for her. Though the island
was in her blood, and she loved the snug cabin,
Rosaleen had the wanderlust. But she always came back, like the seals.
All our births, and deaths, and crimes we tell the seals;
they take our sins out on the tide.
When you return, my dear, we’ll build a new cabin
for you on the rise where the waves
curve around the skerrie. Come back to the island
as soon as you can, but don’t take the ferryboat.
The tide is changing, the seals watch from the waves,
my sailboat is ready. Think of us in the cabin,
waiting for you here on the island.