At midnight on the thirty first of November, she breaks the seal
of a blue-green apothecary bottle, measures seven drops
onto a teaspoon and folds them anti-clockwise into a sweet
hedgerow syrup of rowan berry and wild rose hip
—the Japanese kind, that tolerates wind and sea-spray.
Gannet feathers as pastry brush, she glazes a barm-brack
and arranges it on a seven-tiered cake stand she shabby-chic-ed
from mis-matched antique plates of Royal Tara, Wedgwood
and Belleek, then carries it to the end of her garden
along with a brass candelabra, a box of matches,
a shot glass and a copy of Le Voyageur Sans Bagages.
There, where soil meets sand, and hydrangeas, samphire,
her currach is fastened. It glows orange in the tango
of candle light, its ribs a genuflection of willow, its torso
tar-smeared goatskin and oak bark. Her feet scrunch limpets
on the rocks as she tosses bits of brack over her left shoulder
into the water, so that when he tastes the wistful salt, hidden
behind the whiskey and the cinnamon and the tea-plumped raisins:
he will know. She climbs aboard, to listen and to wait.
When the tide comes in, it finds half her brain asleep, her cheek
to the hull of the lullabying currach, dreaming the rhythmic elbow
of an uilleann piper. The flotsam pitch and toss of her heartbeat
wakes her. Giddy as a swan’s landing dance, she dives back
into the sealskin he holds open for her and gets lost
in a Rapunzel of seaweed. The ocean above her croons, love-bitten
by moonlight. Piano-pianissimo, a low, guttural humming
funnels up the shaft of the masthead; percolates itself
into a stiffening sail. The slow Irish air of Fonn na Rón unfurls
into the wind in a billow of salt and longing and they spin
perdendosi, in a downward coil, eyes half-closed, blowing bubbles.
Then, on the taorluath—the last grace note, and not to be dwelt on,
she hauls herself ashore, decants seven fresh drops from her
intertidal eyes and seals them in little aquamarine vials, until next year.
(Commended in Wild Atlantic Words 2015 and first published in its anthology)