Crossing the Red Sea
1 Many slept on deck Because of the day’s heat Or to watch a sunset They would never see again – Stretched out on blankets and pillows Against cabins and rails: Shirtless, in shorts, barefooted, Themselves a landscape Of milk-white flesh On a scoured and polished deck. Voices left their caves And silence fell from its shackles, Memories strayed From behind sunken eyes To look for shorelines – Peaks of mountains and green rivers That shared their secrets With storms and exiles.
2 1949, and the war Now four years dead – Neither masters nor slaves As we crossed a sea And looked at red banners That Time was hoisting In mock salute.
3 Patches and shreds Of dialogue Hung from fingertips And unshaven faces – Offering themselves As a respite From the interruption Of passing waves. ‘I remember a field Of red poppies, once behind the forest When the full moon rose.’ ‘Blood Leaves similar dark stains – When it runs for a long time On stones or rusted iron.’ (And the sea’s breath Touched the eyes Of another Lazarus Who was saying a prayer In thanksgiving For miracles)
4 All night The kindness Of the sea continued – Breaking into Walled-up griefs That men had sworn Would never be disclosed, Accepting outflung denunciations With a calmness That brought a reminder Of people listening to requiems, Pine trees whispering Against a stone wall in the breeze; Or a trembling voice That sang at the rails When the ship first sailed From the sorrow Of northern wars.
5 Daybreak took away The magic of dreams, Fragments of apparitions That became More tangible than words – Echoes and reflections Of the trust That men had bartered For silence. Had we talked Of death Perhaps something More than time Would have been lost. But the gestures Of darkness and starlight Kept our minds Away from the finalities Of surrender – As they beckoned towards A blood-rimmed horizon...
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