You have been a receptacle for the dead
for as long as anyone can remember
but when a vein of cars issues from the church-
yard on the mainland across the strand
at low tide I consider you more womb
than tomb, your graveyard a belly-button
tethered to the funeral cortege, your
coastline foetal, its crown-rump length of pink
quartz equal to this mile-long cord of nutrient-
rich bodies coming back to be buried
where they were born in a place so heavy
with descendants its tidal waters keep
breaking, pushing bones back up from the sand
swaddled in blankets of low-growing thyme.
Majella Kelly is from the West of Ireland. 2017 has been good to her. She has a poem the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2017 and in the Best New British & Irish Poets 2017. Also, she came third in the Resurgence Poetry Prize and has been nominated by Crannóg for a Pushcart Prize. You can read more about her at www.majellakelly.com.
“This poem was inspired by a prompt from Christie Williamson on his wonderful Utopia Island Studio course. The course coincided with the death a man called Pascal Whelan (R.I.P.), who was the last permanent resident on a tidal island called Omey, off the coast of Connemara. I never met him, but he was a retired stuntman and I’m not the first to be captivated by his life story. In a radio documentary I listened to, he spoke of the spectacle of funerals on the island, where at low tide the cars stretch from the church on the mainland across the strand to the graveyard on the island. He also spoke of the human bones in the old graveyard that keep coming up out of the sand. He was constantly reburying them. This is my small homage to Pascal and to Omey.”