SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC 1727-29
And we thought we were in danger
with seas snarling below us,
winds buffeting like gannets’ wings
while we tore their flesh for food.
And the cold that racked us
as fingers smashed at stone for shelter
was sharp as spume; a blitz of white
that stung us with each storm.
Hirta on the horizon during cloud
- yet when skies were clear,
Conachair sharp with sadness,
Oiseaval a clenched fist out of reach.
Where were the people
who had abandoned us.
the souls who had condemned us
to endless exile on this rock?
Yet when we had heard all they had suffered
- the scorching heat of fever -
we felt half-glad to have been stranded on that stac,
to have endured the chill
Of spring and winter on its stone
while they lacked strength to even dig
graves for those who were not there to greet us
when we returned to Village Bay.
Study for Smallpox Epidemic 1727-20
Poem reproduced by kind permission of Donald S. Murray