Poem of the week: The Etymology of Isolation

A new work by Paddy Bushe

Paddy Bushe

Paddy Bushe


No man is an Iland, intire of itself.

John Donne


Outside our window, above the wind-flecked

Bay between its two enclosing headlands,

A dozen gannets circle, now and then plunging

And struggling up to wheel and plunge again.

I am contemplating isolation, its meanings

In the here and now and then and again,

Contemplating that isolate shares its Latin

Island roots with insulate, that each one is also

A peece of the Continent, a part of the maine.

Isolation warms itself towards insulation.


I think of our son, whose house on the small

Peninsula across the bay I can just make out,

And who drops food and news and comfort

To our insulated door, like a boatman judging

A quick now or never surge to a storm-isolated

Island slipway, quickly heaving up supplies

One-handed, the other on the tiller steering

A curve astern. He smiles, waves. Half-joking,

Wholly grateful in this semi-isolation, I offer

A coinage: peninsulated. And we’ll live with that.

March 29th, 2020

Paddy Bushe’s most recent collection is Double Vision (Dedalus Press)