Below the locked tower
Comber Estuary twists,
rich enough in salt marsh
and eel-grass to tempt
Brent Geese from the sky.
We are restricted by tides,
must wait for the reveal
of a narrow path, walk
the concrete causeway
still wet beneath our feet.
The route is circular –
a mile and a half round
the island edge. Strangford
Lough strung out for us
like a blue silk ribbon
or an old rope tightening
around the neck. Time is short.
Our joined hands have barely
warmed but there is nothing
to be gained by getting trapped.
Our fingers come undone.
I’m unaware this patch
of disappearing land is named.
We hurry into the dark,
slip inside separate cars.
It is not my job to mind this lower land.
I should be on the southern shore
collecting sea-wrack for the upper fields,
not crouching out of sight, watching men
bent double at Port Ramon, constructing
their stone trap in the shallow inlet –
a long linear strip of stacked rock, to meet,
at an oblique angle, this shorter arm,
perfectly set to catch fish on the falling tide.
I learned that Pollock feed over wrecks,
have a preference for ragged sea-beds,
feed on sprat, small mackerel, sand-eels,
dive to avoid our nets and rods, outsmart
us in the tangled kelp. My father calls
them fighting fish. I nod in time with him.
At night, after the candles are blown out,
I see their massive mouths, protruding jaws,
the staring eyes. With mine pressed shut
it’s easier to pick out the lateral line, silver
and curving upwards, the three dorsal fins.
In the sea their flanks are brown or greenish-grey
but in my hands their backs are shining copper,
their bellies white, and sliced and oozing
iridescent flesh and fine bones that pierce my feet.