crab pot (1280x851)
Elegy for a Small Island
    for JWP (1913-2006)
by Ann Howells

The blue crab sheds its pinching carapace,
and salty oysters breathe blue-grey water
in the exact spot where, in a one-room school,
you daydreamed waves. Your island,
less than one mile wide, three long, is gnawed,
silt spit into Great Shellfish Bay.

Cicadas drone a one-note dirge, dawn to dusk;
mosquitoes are roiling thunderheads.
Saltmarsh twitches with no-see-ums—ticks
and biting flies. It gulps down wanderers,
digests their bones. Archeologists
will someday find there was an island
beneath their shallow sea; they’ll display
primitive tools: dredge, seine, tongs,
ponder what forgotten deities you worshiped,
how you served them.

Nor’easters and hurricanes rage; waters rise.
You always knew water more powerful
than wind or fire, more powerful than man’s
tiny constructions. Nights are black molasses.
Days are beaded glass. The river is a polished
silver plate. And, this island is sand
that trickles from a flawed hourglass.

SOURCE: Originally published in Surrounded: Living with Islands (Write Wing Publishing, 2012).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The elegy was written for the island near the Chesapeake Bay where my father grew up. All of his children and grandchildren consider it their “ancestral home,” if such an unpretentious place can bear such a title. Our ties to the island are strong. But the tides are strong as well: erosion is stealing the land and environmentalists warn of rising oceans. We all understand that some day the entire island will vanish, and that only makes us cling harder. The poem is dedicated to my father, who lived and died there, who loved the land even more than we do. Though I no longer live there, the island is still my one and only home.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Island seen through crab pot” by Ann Howells.

Ann reads  for DPC 2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Howells’s poetry appears in Crannog (Ire), Lunch Ticket, and Spillway, among others. She serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community, 501-c-3 non-profit, and has edited Illya’s Honey, since 1999. Her chapbooks are Black Crow in Flight, (Main Street Rag, 2007) and the Rosebud Diaries (Willet Press, 2012). She has been read on NPR, interviewed on Writers Around Annapolis television, and has four times been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.