The Idea of Islands by Sue Hubbard & Donald Teskey

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The Idea of Islands by Sue Hubbard & Donald Teskey

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52 pp: The Idea of Islands is a unique collaboration that brings together a series of emotionally incisive poems by English poet Sue Hubbard and powerfully atmospheric drawings by Irish artist Donald Teskey RHA, inspired by a remote and starkly beautiful location on the wild, western seaboard of Ireland.

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The Idea of Islands

The candle in its glass stutters,
   reflected back fourfold
       in the panes of this small window,
 
though tonight there is no moon,
   only an endless sea black
        as a saucer of spilt ink 

and waves crested with white horses
    stretching into the far distance like light
        streaking the surface of a dark negative. 
.
I know that out there
    there is not nothing; 
        for my mind recalls the idea of islands
      
and how in the early morning mist
    high above the boiling sea
        mercury clouds 

can part
    suddenly as quicksilver
        to reveal a radiant light.

Though I have been here before
    I now understand something of
       the compulsion of departure and return, 

how love must be a surrender, 
    a letting go of that dark grieving
        lodged in marrow bone, 

and how life is only this moment
   at midnight: a guttering candle
       and a terrible wind
       
howling across a strait of wide water
    like something lost in the anthracite dark, 
        beating its way home in the battering rain.

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St. Fionán

Soaked in ash and sea water, 
the yellow fat
 
scrapped off  with knives,
we dressed
 
the tanned leather
with sheep tallow,
 
polished it smooth
with stones before stretching
 
the stinking hide
over the arched ribs
 
of the wooden curach
lashing with thongs,
 
till our fingers bled, 
the three chiselled benches
 
for the oarsmen to sit in pairs:
those chosen to bear us
 
to the place
of our resurrection.
 
Night,
and we drift beneath
 
a rosary of stars,
bony faces bowed in
 
the cathedral dark, 
as our oars pull against
 
the freezing surf.
Days we have waited
 
for fair weather,
now faith and the foul flesh
 
of salted sea birds
must sustain us as we
 
set sail towards the edge
of the world
 
following one another
into this penitent dark.

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