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Now Returned Home

 Beyond the narrows of the Inner Hebrides
We sailed the cold angry sea toward Barra, where Heaval mountain
Lifts like a mast.
There were few people on the steamer, it was late in the year; I noticed most an old shepherd, Two wise-eyed dogs wove anxious circles around his feet, and a thin-armed girl Who cherished what seemed a doll, wrapping it against the sea-wind.
When it moved I said to my wife "She'll smother it.
" And she to the girl: "Is your baby cold? You'd better run down out of the wind and uncover its face.
" She raised the shawl and said "He is two weeks old.
His mother died in Glasgow in the hospital Where he was born.
She was my sister.
" I looked ahead at the bleak island, gray stones, ruined castle, A few gaunt houses under the high and comfortless mountain; my wife looked at the sickly babe, And said "There's a good doctor in Barra? It will soon be winter.
" "Ah," she answered, "Barra'd be heaven for him, The poor wee thing, there's Heaval to break the wind.
We live on a wee island yonder away, Just the one house.
" The steamer moored, and a skiff—what they call a curragh, like a canvas canoe Equipped with oars—came swiftly along the side.
The dark-haired girl climbed down to it, with one arm holding That doubtful slip of life to her breast; a tall young man with sea-pale eyes and an older man Helped her; if a word was spoken I did not hear it.
They stepped a mast and hoisted a henna-color Bat's wing of sail.
Now, returned home After so many thousands of miles of road and ocean, all the hulls sailed in, the houses visited, I remember that slender skiff with dark henna sail Bearing off across the stormy sunset to the distant island Most clearly; and have rather forgotten the dragging whirlpools of London, The screaming haste of New York.

by Robinson Jeffers
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