The woman with the child
in her arms stands
in the prow of the boat
facing land more felt
than seen.

The men straining the oars
and the flap of sodden
canvas compete with the
heavy presence of the sea
deck heaving.

Her practised feet keep
easy balance.  She
doesn't feel her soaked
clothes, they long ago
ceased to have meaning -

sniffing the salt air
she scans the sky
searching birds, waiting
for a tinge of green
to reach her nostrils.

Dried salt spray painful
on her skin, cracked fingers
cracked lips, the quiet
child stirs gently as
blown spray nets them.

Yesterday I entered the
church, passing the niche
with the woman and child
standing frozen in the
prow of a boat, sightless

eyes staring out to sea -
a replica found
of the one not far
from the altar with

clothes softly wrapped
round body and arms:
blue, pink, white, gold:
child held out to us
as if we could grant it safety.
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