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.

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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.

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      • 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?

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      • 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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