On the Verge of Holy Island

View from on the island

As the tide goes out,
the road appears sandy and inviting,
a thin shimmering strand of connective tissue
between the mainland and the island.

We’re in England,
just below the border with Scotland,
a shifting line of capture and release,
like the tides themselves
with less regularity.

Changing over time, and leaving restless pools
of life and inhabitants swirling in transition;
some are acquiescent,
while others defiant.

This is the elastic borderlands
between two countries
in the same empire
protruding from the same nurturing sea.


18 thoughts on “On the Verge of Holy Island

      • I live near Dundee. Holy Island is squarely in England by many miles, though in a unique part of England that feels like an entirely different country – almost English, almost Scottish, but 100% itself.


      • I know it’s squarely in England now, but I had read that the border has changed a lot over time and at different points in history Holy Island and the rest of Northumberland were a part of Scotland; hence the connection in the poem to the changing tides. Also, I’ve talked to people in that area who consider it rightfully Scotland. Am I completely off on this?


      • It’s a moot point. Most Northumbrians regard themselves as being a special breed of English. However, lines on maps are arbitrary at the best of times and are often a curse rather than a blessing. When you consider that conditions for a farm worker in Norham and Ladykirk are practically identical then why, from their point of view, draw a line at all?

        I’m reminded of the little French rhyme:

        Le Couesnon, en sa folie,
        mit le Mont en Normandie.


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