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from The Shell Notebook Poems, Take 5 04,

Shoestring Press, ISBN 1 904886 09 4


3.  Sailing from France: Henrietta's Romance in 1698


A Spanish sailor told us

it would be safer

to travel at night.

He wore gold earrings that

glimmered like the moon.


We closed the house:

Two pairs of shoes,

a coat, a dress.

The oars swept the black river

and we waited for the land to change.


We were pinpricks in the night,

and the heavens were written

upside down, on water.

We were fireflies,

the guttering of a midnight candle.


In the dawn,

we crossed to England.

All day the sea heaved,

around the ship, freighted with

rolls of silk, beneath a linen sail.


I woke, my hair threaded

with laments. My mother’s voice

explaining:  ‘We have nothing but

our silence,

no home, no grace.’


I came back from the fathoms.

On the quay, they took our names.

Years later.  I think, I saw the sailor again.

A backward glance.

His hand holding mine, on the shore

of Lough Neagh.



Clare Crossman


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