Ros Barber is author of verse novel The Marlowe Papers (2012), which won the Desmond Elliot Prize 2013 and was long-listed for the Bailey’s (formerly the Orange) Prize. Her last collection of poetry, Material (2008), was a Poetry Book Society recommendation.
Half in, half out of the water,
he didn’t move like a threat. He lay breathing,
his skin rippled ancient by the wet.
Although his face was strange with pleading,
instantly I knew it from the ship.
But fins like razor canines cut the distance
– somewhere, secret somewhere he was bleeding –
and his weight was egging sea onto the deck.
For many days I baked beneath the makeshift sail,
crusting hard to the sun, to the slapping wind
and fearing sunset – blood that blooms like poppies in the water.
I never felt so cold.
Lord. Loosing his fingers from the wood
felt like survival. A sense of island
clamoured in my chest. Now, after all,
my belief in land is withered.
I could do with company, I guess.
[‘Adrift’ was previously published in Orbis (1986).]
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