‘The Chapel, St Martin’s Island’, by John Birnie

you were well above the other yachts and boats
the ripples and sparkles below were like a dream
when you sailed calm as an ocean liner
into the side of the hill

the ripples kept jiggling in before the breeze
the light sprang off this and that surface
and the air came in above it all
pushed for a moment then flowed around
your sail run aground and turned to stone

all the trees billowed out
and turned to waves as your sail and hull
anchored you into the green hill
a school of sheep drift past

it could all be dismissed as fanciful
or laughed off as a half-remembered dream
but for the testimony of sand on the floor
gritty as questions and prayers
except for the witness of ribs and planks
except for the amen of the figurehead
the wooden cross setting a course
out over the open sea

[I’ve mentioned before my association with the very special St Martin Island Community who gather on a beautiful and historically-significant island in Otago Harbour. This poem appeared in today’s Otago Daily Times]

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