Westray: 1991

By Linda Bierds b. 1945 Linda Bierds
Then the day passed into the evening,
a sovereign, darkening blue. And
the twenty-six lost miners,
if living at all, knew nothing of the hour:
not the languid canter
of light, or the wind
curled through the hedgerows. Not pain.
Not rage. If living at all then
just this: a worm of black water
at the lower back. At the lungs
two tablets of air.

         What is it like there? the broadcaster asked,
         his voice and the slow reply
         cast down through the time zones of America.

         A stillness. All of the families
         asleep in the fire station.
         And the mineworks pale on the landscape.

         What else?
         Nothing. Blue lights of police cars.

         What else?
         ...The thrum of the crickets.

A thousand files on a thousand scrapers.
A thousand taut membranes called mirrors
amplifying the breed-song. A landscape of cupped wings
amplifying the breed-song. A thousand bodies
summoned to a thousand bodies—and the song itself a body,
so in tune with the dusk's warmth
it slows when a cloud passes over.
Today. Tomorrow. In that May Nova Scotia darkness
when the earth flared and collapsed.
Before that May. After that darkness.
On the larch bud. On the fire station.
On shale and the grind-steps of magma.
On the gold straining in its seam bed.
On the coal straining. On the twenty-six headlamps
swaying through the drift tunnels. On the bud.
On the leaves, on the meadow grass,
on the wickerwork of shrubs:
dark cape of desire.

Linda Bierds, “Westray: 1991" from The Ghost Trio (New York: Henry Holt,
1994). Copyright © 1994 by Linda Bierds. Reprinted with the permission
of the author.

Source: The Ghost Trio: Poems (1994)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Linda Bierds b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Elegy

 Linda  Bierds


Linda Bierds was born in Wilmington, Delaware and raised in Seattle, Washington. She earned her BA and MA, with an emphasis in fiction, from the University of Washington. Bierds credits her poetry’s distinct style and interests to her early work as a fiction writer. She spoke to Contemporary Authors about life after receiving her degree:“Once on my own, writing each morning before going to a part-time job as a file clerk, it was . . .

Continue reading this biography

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.