Once we are over the causeway there is no going back.
Roa Island in drenching drizzle, and against all odds he is there.
In the way of ferry men in these parts (and we have met them both)
he sees us and comes over to fetch us in his little boat
It is an island of promises and, in the way of islands in these parts
(and there are not many) it has its own magic.
We have heard tell of a castle, a king and a pub with smugglers,
and yet when we get there it is deserted, waiting.
In the way of islands, especially misty ones like this one,
it is deceptive. The pub is full of fishermen, waders to their armpits.
There is a throne and dog with a life jacket,
and the castle bathed in sudden sunlight.
On the shore there are baby oystercatchers,
not quite visible against the stones, and sea campion
and vetch and hedge mustard and lifting clouds
and a quiet that gets inside you and stays.
All too soon we have walked around it.
It is very small this island, and not wanting to leave
we sit in the sunshine and watch the boats
come and go and are there together.
At last we wave to the ferryman and he comes across
with a tale to tell, a dark one, for the journey back.
We move behind the giant dredger and slide through its oily wake.
He tells us it is digging out a channel deep and fast
for soon, he says, but not when, they will slide out beneath us
armed with unthinkable death, the terrible shapes
beneath the water; the nuclear submarines
that men build here will make their way out to sea.
And once on shore we part company, reluctantly,
taking with us the sense of something done, completed,
for if we come again it will not be this day, this time;
It will be the same and yet as though we’d never been.
I stand to watch our ferry man depart, take with him
islands, kings and castles, smugglers and fear
back to his land of blowing wild flowers in the evening sunshine,
carried on the certainty of the turning tide.