Harp Of Bone






The sky veiled in nun’s grey

cloisters Iseult  on a sloping island

of  evergreen and slate.


A raw wind rubs against leaf and thistle,

moss and timber — the small frame of her ribs.

Its harp echoing the song;


of white hands,  love  potion, and long

ship with  dark sails, the cracked shell  of a heart

floating in the seaweed at dawn.


The poem centers around a lamenting Iseult, a character from Arthurian tales of the Middle ages. Iseult, a beautiful Irish princess,  fell in love with Tristan, a knight of  King Arthur’s court though she was betrothed to another, King Mark of Cornwall. Tristan had already married another woman with the same name, only she was from Brittany and called “Iseult of the white hands”. However, Tristan was entrusted with the task of escorting King Mark’s fiancé, the first Iseult, to his castle in Cornwall. Aboard ship,  Iseult  and Tristan accidentally swallow a love potion meant for another purpose, originally brewed for Iseult to fall madly in love with her future husband , King Mark. However, she and Tristan stare at each other and because of the magic effect, fall hopelessly in love. They have an affair and enrage the ire and jealousy of Tristan’s wife, the other Iseult of the white hands. The couple are separated and go on to lead very sad lives.




  1. Dear Michael, Sarah and Craig

    Thank you all so, so much for sharing your thoughts on this poem and for always taking an interest in my work. That means so much to me as a writer and member of this beautiful community. You help to keep me inspired and confident that my work matters!!

    My best always,


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