Lockdown Exile. A prose poem by Louisa McKee

This year we are in exile, banned from the yearly drive to go west, yet I only need close my eyes to feel the scratch of sand, rich will shells and glints of coral, like a pumice scrub, with a quick rinse in icy water, enticing to look at but blue toes deny all thoughts of immersion until summer comes.

The sun dapples the water, which up close is clear with a creamy white ruffle, the turquoise, and further out the deeper blues, where the current runs hard calling the unwary out towards the ocean.

The breeze could bite, hard in off the Atlantic, and we’d leave the briny scent of the sea and climb back up through the dunes, prickled by maram, cheeks flushed and eyes runny,

Back home, we’d stick the pan on, counting up who wanted what: bacon and sausages ffrom Mickey Joe’s Country Store, eggs from Brian’s hens, potato bread and soda carried from our other homes, two pots of tea; weak for Mum, strong for me.

After, a snoozey read before a trip to the Harbour Bar, or Casey’s as it’s often known, to swap pints and share a packet of Tayto, sitting up at the bar, by the fire, talking weather, fishing, or the chat of who’s at what, occasionally with whom… I’d say, “Go raibh maith agat. Slán,” my pronunciation terrible but they’d smile at the effort.

On the way back, we’d often call at Tra na Rossan to see where the stones have migrated to this year: take a stone or a pebble, never, “Removal of Beach Material is Strictly Prohibited” according to the sign at the start of the path where the sheep shelter.

I wonder how it will have been without us. Is it Schrödinger’s beach? There will be no casually cast aside plastic just the washed up detritus we’ve fouled the ocean with and us not there to gather it.

Yes, this spring we are in exile, perhaps we will be welcome this summer.

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