We were two girls and the three-man crew
of the Foula mail boat. Grocery boxes crowded
around the coffin of an island woman
who had died in town.
Damp fog closed in. The engine thundered.
Its fumes hung in the air, its wake was dizzying swirls
of white water. Occasional birds - a guillemot or puffin -
flew with us over the slow heave of the waves.
Two hours and twenty-two miles out to sea
the men cut the engine. And listened
for water breaking on rocks.
We might have missed Foula. We might be heading
out into the ocean. Onto reefs. Into cliffs.
Even on clear days the five-peaked silhouette
was never certain. It was always a gift.
A horn. We heard a horn. Someone on shore
was blowing long and continuous notes
to guide us in to the pier.
When we landed, the Laird's wife snatched our wrists
and drew us with her to the Hall
for women folk must not be part of the procession
carrying the coffin into the mist.
Foula. The edge of the world.
Published in Praise Song, December 2014
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