The Fishermen’s Farewell

By Robin Robertson b. 1955 Robin Robertson
Their long stares mark them apart; eyes gone
to sea-colors: gray, foam-flecked

and black in the undertow, blue
as the blue banners of  the mackerel, whipping west.

On land, they are smoke-walkers, where each stone
is a standing stone, every circle a stone circle.

They would be rumor if they could, in this frozen
landscape like a stopped sea, from the great stone keels

of  Callanish to the walls of  Dunnottar and Drum.
They would be less even than rumor:

to be ocean-stealers, to never throw a shadow — 
to dream the blank horizon and dread the sight of  land.

The drink storms through these men, uncompasses
them, till they’re all at sea again.

Their houses, heeled over in the sand:
each ruin now a cairn for kites.

And down by the quay
past empty pots, unmended nets, and boats:

this tiny bar, where men sleep upright
in their own element, as seals.

Source: Poetry (January 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2013
 Robin  Robertson


Born in Perthshire, poet Robin Robertson was brought up on the northeast coast of Scotland where, as he says in a 2008 interview, “history, legend and myth merged cohesively in the landscape.” Robertson’s early influences include the stories of Celtic and Classical myth, the vernacular ballads, and folklore. His deeply sensory poems explore notions of love and loss framed by the dialogue between the classical and the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams


Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

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