Northwords Now

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The Boat Cold

by Stephanie Green

Even before their flit boats reach us, we smell them.
Fishy – from the giben, or fulmar grease,
they pour on the flesh and eggs of the birds they eat.

Bird-people indeed:  their cries are raucous
as gulls, no doubt to make themselves heard
over the thunderous surf of this savage rock.

If you try to photograph the women, they scowl
but offer them a shilling and they’ll scamper indoors,
fetch their spinning wheels, smile and pose.

For sale, they have tweed - rough but serviceable,
or quaint souvenirs: fulmar and gannet wings,
blown eggs and brooches from oystercatcher beaks.        

They need cash for luxuries from the mainland:
whisky, for medicinal use they say, and tobacco –
their silverweed smoke no longer to their taste.

Spoilt by charity, they demand coal
and paraffin as if it was their right – too idle
to dig for peats, or milk the fulmars for oil.        
The men lounge about, all talking at once.
I’m told it’s a Parliament. They do no work                         
unless you bribe them to put on a flying display -                                    
as good as the circus: abseiling the beetling cliffs,
swinging out to avoid overhangs -
it’s enough to take your breath away

Six Poems on the Leaving of St Kilda
Euphemia MacCrimmondPoem by Stephanie Green
I might as well be a widow (1900) Poem by Stephanie Green
I tell my husband I am pregnant and he sets out to make a tiny coffin (1891)Poem by Stephanie Green
The Boat Cold Poem by Stephanie Green
The Leaving of St Kilda (1930) Poem by Stephanie Green
Walking on Air in Gannet Slippers Poem by Stephanie Green

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