Seen First From Seaward

Seen first from seaward, Tangier Island
Looms small and low, and lacking highland.
Its shores are mostly bayside marsh,
Where wading birds cry loud and harsh.

No malls or theatres greet your view.
Of roads and houses, just a few.
To cross the island, take bike or cart,
Your trip will end before you start.

The watermen and their families here
Live lives that most of us would fear.
Away by dawn as they’ve been taught,
To trawl a world that time forgot.

And as they work in cold or squall
They pose a question for us all.
What’s needed in a life well lived-
For what we gain, what do we give?

To find the Island’s heart and soul,
If that should be your visit’s goal,
You need to grasp their sense of place,
Of being of a separate race.

A weathered folk at one with God,
They walk the lanes their fathers trod.
Here past and present side by side
Are joined by water, wind and tide.

When work is done, despite the weather,
You’ll tend to find them close together.
The school, the general store, the church,
Those are places you should search.

That’s where they meet to chew the fat
And ruminate on this or that,
Retelling favorite tales and jokes
As they use caulk to seal their boats.

Speak names from stones seen through a fence
Or in the church yard-Crockett, Spence,
McCready, Pruitt, Parks and Dize-
Around you most will raise their eyes.

In the modern world of plane and phone,
Where neighbors can remain unknown,
Our costs are high, Tangiers’ much cheaper.
We travel farther, they live deeper.

by Chuck Toll

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