A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
When I duck into the shed to find a trowel,
the wings of a Siberian swan splay out above me.
Feathers catch in my hair and cling to my jacket.
It died, caught in a telephone wire, last winter,
and you saved the wings to dangle over
empty flowerpots and old gardening gloves.
The swan’s dry muscles keep Russian summers
and arctic winds hanging in our shed.
You gather bones and boil them clean.
Flipper bones of a Leatherback turtle cross
on the windowsill. Thousands of miles of sea
calcified in those bones. Shapes animals held
a long time stay, rattling in the drawer
with the telephone book, studding the soil
of the houseplants you grow. Slowly, the world
becomes a body for what is lost.
BRESSAY ISLAND LULLABY
The island lies hunched
across the harbor mouth
like a creature keeping watch,
guarding the town and ships.
The ferry goes back and forth,
to left, to right and back,
taking the lapping moon
in its cusped and spreading wake.
Go to sleep, my love,
for sleep will carry you where
you have to go as sure
as any hurrying thought.
Give your mind to the island.
The dark is on the sea;
the land is holding you still.
The following clip is a sample of the Bressay Lullaby
in the original language sung by Gordon Bok.
Author's note: The previous poems are all rooted in Shetland, an island in the North Sea between Scotland and Norway. One of its oldest songs is called “Bressay Lullaby,” named for one of the small islands. The lullaby, sung here by Gordon Bok, is in the distinctive Shetland dialect, which has its roots in Old English and Old Norse. “Bone House” was inspired by an old saying that claims that if you sing over bones of an animal, its spirit will come back. If we honor the remains of things, we’ll allow their essence to stay with us. The Anglo Saxon word for body is “bone house.”
Katherine Robinson grew up in Maryland, near Washington, DC. She graduated from Amherst College in 2008 with a BA in English. She is currently an MFA student at Johns Hopkins University, studying with Mary Jo Salter. Between degrees she worked at a wildlife sanctuary in the Shetland Islands and at the Folger Theater in Washington, DC.
The Bressay Lullaby, sung by Gordon Bok from the album Kind Land © 1999 Timberhead Music. Used by permission.