The Offshore Islands by Ruth Moore

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 volcanos, 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 cummer 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 study,
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 cemetaries 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.

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