The Lonely Land

Cedar and jagged fir

uplift sharp barbs

against the gray

and cloud-piled sky;

and in the bay

blown spume and windrift

and thin, bitter spray


at the whirling sky;

and the pine trees

lean one way.


A wild duck calls

to her mate,

and the ragged

and passionate tones

stagger and fall,

and recover,

and stagger and fall,

on these stones —

are lost

in the lapping of water

on smooth, flat stones.

This is a beauty

of dissonance,

this resonance

of stony strand,

this smoky cry

curled over a black pine

like a broken

and wind-battered branch

when the wind

bends the tops of the pines

and curdles the sky

from the north.


This is the beauty

of strength

broken by strength

and still strong.

A. J. M. Smith, “The Lonely Land” from Classic Shade (McClelland & Stewart, 1978). Copyright © 1978 A. J. M. Smith.