Red Sea, Eritrea 1994
White skin, Red Sea.
They meet post-holocaust
At the ends of shell-pocked streets,
While crows corrupt the calm to echo
Ghost gun cracks, phantom rebel prayers,
Their sweat, the anticipation of furious bombers
Pelting acid orange from the sun-bleached sky.
Away from rhythmic hammers
Reassembling lives from scarred fragments,
The sea moves us to a hot horizon of polar emptiness,
And comfortable guides steer round mirage islands
Rediscovering the familiar, the old necessities,
Unable to say they are mystified
By our language, our luggage, our lives.
Anchored by the heat, we mask land eyes,
And plunge, white skinned into Red Sea.
Sun shards light new worlds below. They wait, accessible,
For the revelation through magic glass as heads dip,
Breaths' rhythm loud in skulls while we hang
Suspended over a silent marine mobile,
Communing with improbable fish.
Emerging, salt-crusted, we scorch dry.
Soft voices grumble Tigrinya, hands fly shuttles
Skipping over torn nets, lines lowered for small fry.
And in the busy stillness, the stove is lit, fish become food.
Small Boy brings chai, serves all, waits to eat, watches
To see if we are, after all, the same,
If our play creates the same hunger as their work.
After night falls, dreaming in briny darkness,
We pencil letters to an angel. Paradise to Paradise.
Knowing that he shares this heaven, we send them
Via star-sodden galaxies that press us to the deck.
copyright K.F. Hawkins Return to Shaped Poems