Unadorned but for the clip
on your umbilical cord, we are
skin to skin.
The blue paper curtain
oceans our island. It is full of treasure.
Here is my mother’s necklace, unclasped
and heirloomed in cotton wool.
Here, the watch my father gave me:
how easily time slides and twists
over a naked wrist.
Here, my wedding-rings take the light
and with it their pledge and promise.
I lay them aside and lift you
to my chest, my treasure. There,
you unlock my motherself
and find it full of riches.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2021. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2021 was Hugh McMillan.
Deceptively simple and gentle poem here, one long metaphor about the treasure of a new child. It’s a great thing how many layers can be revealed in such few words, in a mere 16 lines. This is a skill that’s hard to grasp and its perfected here in a poem that is wistful, airy and gossamer light, like its subject. An antidote to bad times, a poem of hope.
Treasure Island is a poem full of revelation, the seismic shift in perspective that the earliest hours of motherhood can herald. It looks past the value of the possessions we acquire in our life— those that fulfil our desire to keep a connection to the past, to keep pace with a frantic present, to assure ourselves of a future within our grasp and under our control— and looks instead to the necessity and immediacy of a single moment: a baby being nursed for the first time. Treasure Island captures the beginning of a new and life-changing relationship, one in which the most important thing you can possess is each other.