When my friend and co-publisher of the Ocracoke Observer and editor of the Doctor’s Creek Journal (from the Friends of Portsmouth Island) Peter Vankevich asked me to write a poem that talked about Portsmouth Island, I knew I’d need to revisit the Island and Village.

I first went to Portsmouth in the mid-1970s to camp in the dunes with a couple of friends. I didn’t return until a few years ago with my family. Then again, this past October. This time, while we didn’t stay over — I don’t think camping is allowed anymore. If the rangers don’t enforce that, the biting insects certainly will.

The Village has been battered repeatedly since it was first established in 1753. Once one of the largest populations on the Outer Banks by 1971 the last people left the Village. Each storm rearranges the shore and more than occasionally the Village itself.

The poem, along with one by Ann Ehringhaus, are available only in print for the Friends of Portsmouth Island, but I’ve included mine here:

On Portsmouth Island

There should be ghosts here.
And would be if the wind
hadn’t taken them to sea.

If what there were of bones
had not been moved by weather
without so much as a moan

or the rising that one
might expect from ghosts.
Yet some spirits still come,

left by the sea on shore
to be broken like waves
unmade to be reborn.

Ghosts ask too much of this sand.
Instead what vanishes is land.