Do you remember a glorious morning before the war
when I swam you out to sea against your mother’s warning of urchins?
You holding too tight around my neck, laughing and
urging me on across the vast blue space.
You were not punctured by urchins that day.
Or remember when paddling on that steep beach
a wave floored you and began to gather you
and I ran down into the water to claim you back?
Even in peacetime I knew our time together was precious, knew
you were the sunshine I should cherish before evening came –
the gloom distant but always expected and so overwhelming
it would discover me petered out, an ancient
praying softly for his daughter’s happiness.
The heat of this war has warped my timetables,
it has set fire to our home and,
against your mother’s better judgement,
driven us into the sea and now we are terribly caught out.
I think your mother and brothers drowned in the capsize
The dark water is choppy and careless and you are mute,
holding too tight again, shivering in your heavy clothing.
And I am quiet with reckoning,
quiet between shouting to reassure you
splashing turns to try and see you face.
I am full of wonder at the idea that I have failed you,
thinking, if there is no hope then it would be kindest to drown you
so you might die comforted, held by your father.
I must not leave you alone.
Might we die together? Is something so unimaginable possible,
thinking how in God’s name is this situation possible?
My mind tearing at our circumstance,
thinking how long can I delay, what words do I say next?