‘The Return’ by Kim Fahner

The boat left the pier and headed out beyond the bay, to open ocean. So far to go before they reached Ireland’s Eye, Maura thought, as she pulled her sunglasses from the swirl of her hair down over her face, to cover her eyes. In her mind, she was Grace Kelly, but a Grace Kelly without a floaty chiffon scarf billowing in the wind. The image was ruined when the wind took her hair, shoved a stray lock into her mouth. She grimaced. This was not the cinematic affair she had intended, booking the trip off the coast of Newfoundland to return something that needed returning.

The captain looked archetypal, all seaworthy and salty. She squinted through the sunlight to see if there was a stray whale off in the distance. No whales, but one errant iceberg. 

She yelled across at Brian. “Can we go out there? To see it?” He didn’t seem to hear her so she pushed the sunglasses back up onto her head, as if that would help—to make eye contact—and then yelled, more loudly, and much more slowly. “Brian! Can. We. Go. Out. There?! To see the iceberg?”  

“No way, missus. That’s further out than you’d think, that one. If we did that, I couldn’t take you out to the island to see where your people lived. So. Iceberg or island. Your choice.” He tilted his head, smirked. 

She tried again. “If I gave you more money? Would you take me out there, too? Could we go there first, and then to the island on the way back?” He could hear her, she knew. He was just being an asshole.

She tried again, tapping at the bohemian bag that she’d slung diagonally across her chest. “For. More. Money?” She smiled, maybe even thought about loosening the top two buttons on her shirt. She wanted to see the iceberg, as well as the island, and she wasn’t one for taking no for an answer. 

Brian shook his head, sadly. “Nope. No doin’ today.” He looked skyward, searching the cloudless sky. “Might be some bad weather coming…” 

In her mind, Maura rolled her eyes, but in reality she just put her hand up to her neck, then dropped it down to loosen the top two buttons. Shameless. Watched his eyes drop down, then slide back up to meet hers. Her grandmother would scold her, if she could see Maura now. Such a hussy.

“Listen. Brian. I’ll give you more money. Out there to the iceberg, then back to the island.” Batted her eyelashes, and then patted the bag again.

He waffled, looking at his watch. Pretended to check the time. Cleared his throat. Yelled at her. “Okay, okay. A hundred more, and you’ll see the iceberg. But we aren’t staying long…” 

Maura turned then, face towards the sea, so that she could pretend he wasn’t in the boat with her. Listened to the sound of the boat’s motor roar, the way the water churned itself up ‘something fierce,’ as her grandmother would’ve said. Her hand drifted to the bag that sat in her lap. Felt it in her gut, then in her heart.

Brian knew, he did, why she was coming out here, to the island. She’d told him when she’d called. A friend of a friend of a family friend had connected her. “No worries, Maura. He’ll take you out to the spot, put the boat against the rocks, and let you scatter them on the land. No worries at all.” 

She looked off to the right, saw the island passing by, and felt her heart sink. They’d left there about eight years before she’d been born. She’d never seen it, but only heard stories of what life had been like there before they’d been forced out, to the mainland. Fishing, some gardens leading down to the water, the church, and the black rock in the tickle, the one you had to steer around to get into the harbour. She’d only seen the pictures, so it all seemed unreal. 

Brian yelled at her over the motor. “See that? Over there? The eagle?!” He slowed the boat.

She turned, then, but couldn’t see. She shook her head. “No. Where?!” 

He pointed with his arm, with his whole body almost. “Follow where my fingers go. There. On that tall point of land? It’s up there.”

She caught it then: strong, carved almost, and somehow defiant. 

Brian yelled. “They used to watch their littlest ones, you know?” 

“What?” Maura yelled back, confused.

“The eagles used to swoop down on the cod, and then one or two took a small lamb or chicken. But then the islanders were worried about the children…” He shook his head, his eyes going wide. 

“Kids? Eagles taking children?!” 

“Never let them on that side of the island alone. Always with an adult in tow.” He pulled his sunglasses over his eyes now, ending the conversation, and revved the motor again. “Just eagles here now…”

They got to the iceberg before the half hour was up. He slowed the boat, killed the motor, let them drift at a safe distance. 

“Do you want to put some of them here, then, too?” His voice was quiet now, uncertain.

Maura shifted in her seat, closed her eyes, thought about it. Felt the ice breathing next to her. She shivered. “Yes. So much of her came from here that some of her should be here again.” 

Brian nodded, looked away to give her privacy. She unzipped the bag, pulled out a pill bottle. Everything was dust, including memory. Maura steadied her legs, leaned over the edge of the boat, and emptied half of the bottle into the sea. 

She blew a kiss to the waves. 

She heard Brian clear his throat, anxious to go. She nodded, sat back down. He started the motor. 

What was left, Maura would scatter on the island. 

What was left, the eagles would help carry up and away.


Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. Her latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She was the fourth poet laureate of Greater Sudbury (2016-18). Kim is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and is the Ontario representative for The Writers’ Union of Canada (2020-22). She may be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com

Three Poems by Kim Fahner

Desire Path

Trailed breadcrumbs,
pumpernickel maybe,
& a slow bend ahead.

There, some jut of rock,
rough edged sedimentary skin.

Footfalls echo on moss, lost.

Bitter crow has taken the loaf, eaten it.


Mead’s Butterfly

for Theodore Mead

Caught up in net, this one,
gold of old mustard & brown of spent earth,
collected and stored for days uncounted.

They can geolocate a butterfly,
so preserved and ancient, all Victorian,
caught up in its worn down shadow box.

Colorado—so raw and rugged—
mapped on paper, but not in heart,
and a man who forgot to label butterfly wings.

Hesperia Colorado, western branded skipper,
without a name for a century and a half,
pin in a map once its genome was unlocked.

This provenance—origin place, so westward—
lab coated scientists following trails of DNA
that spiral back through time, spinning.

Discovery and origin and papillon flight,
wings that crumble roughly, spent and dry,
shelved again, catalogued, defined, then forgotten.


Taking Down The Stack, Copper Cliff

Almost half a century here and
the first half of that was time
spent with the tall stack
spitting out clouds of sulphur—
tasting it first on your tongue,
then at the back of your throat.

Before that even, the mines
coughed up rain that coated
peony and lilac leaves
with thick powdered silver.

Before that even, stories of how
my dead relatives would hose off
the flower garden every morning at dawn,
the dew clinging stubbornly to stems and
painting the backs of ladybugs so that
even the earwigs mistook them for simple beetles.


Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario, where she was poet laureate from 2016-18. Her latest book of poems, These Wings, was published in Spring 2019 by Pedlar Press. Kim’s a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Writers’ Union of Canada, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She blogs fairly regularly at kimfahner.wordpress.com and can be reached via www.kimfahner.com