For five years I drove to work daily over the old bridge to the Isle of Sheppey. I came to love the island’s wild beauty: its low-lying marshes that mirrored the enormous skies and gleaming light; and its open-hearted hospitality. My work began there in mid-winter and ended in mid-summer – hence the “hail and farewell” of this poem.
Ave Atque Vale
The year’s midnight thickens.
Wind-raked, the island stiffens, tightens
Under the crack of ice;
Soil shrivels, earth dwindles
While the muted sun claws its way
Over a straight horizon.
My own skin shrinks, cold.
The year’s noontide widens.
Heat-baked, the island stretches, loosens
Under the weight of light;
Harvest bleaches all land blond
While the sun pounces like a tiger
Bellying its way over flattened fields;
And my own skin smiles, now warm.
(c) Lizzie Ballagher