Island Memories by Lynn Atkinson

Poet name: Lynn Atkinson Poem title: Island Memories Poem: 1 On an island in the sea, away from hands that hold, I exist for the first time amidst the roar of moon snails emptied of their fleshy lives hard and white under the soft waves Planting my secrets in the cold sand before the morning milking, and the farmer’s wife commending us for our breakfast promptness meant we had never slept, and were hungry for more than our bodies could feed us in those young years Never doubting that fear would always be a part of excitement, when don’t worry in the hay loft led to more than straw up our backsides and for the first and last time I tell my mother I am in love, she who knows nothing, I think, of love, its worldly smile that carves itself on every tree — I love Alan Madley madly, madly Its immortality that fades when the slap of a beaver tail on the water shoots me home to the ties that bind to the flicker and fade of moth-swarmed light bulbs, and the comforting chug of a generator that hiccups and dies I must have thought, roaming the beach collecting summer moons, that love would never end.. 2 On the sun-warmed dock my brother and I fish for shiners in the sucking ocean that rises and falls amongst the pilings, salt spray up our noses and in our city-clean hair I cat-walk down the steep gang plank rubber boots braced against the tortured sound of metal gouging wood as the Union Steamship tub sidles up to the dock, purring engines cut seconds too late Wharfinger’s curses rip the summer air, toqued deckhands shout orders throw ropes and cranes unload boxes from the hold. Diesel fumes mingle with pungent oranges from a torn crate and the dead starfish I carry around in my pocket for good luck. 3 My father in his red shirt in the red canoe is not fishing. He was never a fisherman. He is waiting for powerboats, wind and water rifle to shoulder and the blood red sea. One seal nose — bounty $10 — paid to a clerk from the city doing his duty on summer holiday. 4 In the faded photo I sit in a doorless outhouse caught with my pants down in my curls, specs of dirt and watermarks like a low-lying cloud of insects dusting the lake’s surface at dusk I dream of striking out alone on the forest path, squirrels chucking in the lacy sieve of cedar boughs, a cathedral over my head Is the shadow on my face a father’s anger? “Hope you’d get lost, teach you a lesson.” I hear his chainsaw and the crash of a giant cedar behind the cabin. End of poem. Credits and bio: Copyright © Lynn Atkinson After completing degrees in English and journalism at the University of British Columbia, Lynn Atkinson expanded her horizons by starting to write poetry 10 years ago. Her poems have been published in the Dalhousie Review, Grain, Ars Medica Journal and University of Toronto Hart House Review.