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The Offshore Islands

A Poem by Ruth Moore

The Offshore Islands The offshore islands belong to themselves.

They stand in their own sea. They do not inherit; they leave no heirs.

They are no man’s legacy.

Blazing volcanoes, cooled and dead,

Marked nowhere a boundary line.

The rise and fall of oceans left Not one no trespassing sign.

The money was never minted, The clutch of its greed so strong It could honor a deed: to have and to hold,

And keep these wild lands long.

The first summer people were Indians.

For some five thousand years They built up shore-line shell heaps before

They lost to the pioneers. The white man took what he wanted.

He had privilege, laws, and guns. He made fast his own boundary lines

And his property went to his sons.

From the west they sailed in Chebacco boats,

And the high-sterned pinkys, Essex-made. In harbors where water was deep enough

Their schooners carried a coast-wise trade.

The homesteads they made were sturdy,

But those who built near the shores Had to dig, if they didn’t want Indian shells

All over their cellar floors.

Then time slipped by, as inheritance does.

They felt the mainland’s pull.

They abandoned their homes to rot away,

And their cemeteries full.

Theirs was the time of history And written records show That their hold on the offshore islands began

Less than four hundred years ago.

Now comes the era of real estate, Of the hundred thousand dollar lots,

Of the condominiums, side by side,

Along the shoreline choicest spots.

What follows the time of developers

No human voice can tell. But the silent offshore islands know,

And they handle their mysteries well.

They speak with a voice that is all their own,

And this is what they say: That they talk in terms of a billion years

That their now is not today. And the ghosts they brought along with them

Have never gone away.

Bestselling author Ruth Moore (1903-1989) not only wrote some of Maine’s greatest novels, but was also a talented poet who published three books of poetry and wrote ballads that have become an ingrained part of pop culture along the coast. Cold as a Dog and Other Stories is a collection of work from a career that stretches for decades and serves to highlight and showcase the remarkable breadth of her writing talent. The book includes selections of ballads, poems, and short stories that previously appeared in Cold as a Dog and the Wind Northeast, The Tired Apple Tree, Time's Web, and When Foley Craddock Tore Off My Grandfather's Thumb.

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