22 Aug 12
and in the shop…
(PBS Choice pamphlet)
“Living on the Difference”
Mack’s from an island no one lives on any more.
The ocean that offered them
saithe, pollack, lobster, cod,
now offers only the sound
of itself on a bad land line
and heartache – slight but persistent
like a draught beneath a byre door.
Mack’s a new man on a downtown island now.
The roar of traffic’s louder than the sea.
He lives on a street full of islanders like him
in and out of one another’s houses,
old words keeping the old world true
while without their knowing it
another language changes them.
Mack’s a creel of memories.
He hauls them to the surface if you ask
but first he picks about. There’s no
helping yourself. It’s his catch, his call.
Sometimes he sorts a bad one out
and throws it back before you’ve time
for a glimpse of the truth it hides.
Mack’s the future, Mack’s the past.
He takes things as he finds them, finds himself
with no need for a compass, reading
the sea of faces, the swell of voices
fighting in his ears the way he’d read
the spumey waves to bring the boat home,
the way he reckoned the turning tide.
Nothing fazes Mack.
He drives a car with a fancy number plate.
His children swear allegiance to perpetual youth,
his son enlisting for its war, his daughter
off to college. Neither know the words their parents
call out in their sleep, nor the creeping melancholy
fog brings from the sea.
Mack’s at home a long long way from home.
You can see it in the way he speaks two tongues,
takes words from one to compliment the other.
You can see it in the way he leans
into any wind, a forward stoop to keep his boots
at a pushing angle to the ground.
It’s the way you tell an islander apart.