Lament for an illegal immigrant


No moon, but fishermen

are used to that and the sea’s chanting,

the descant of the nets.

The decks silvered with sea verses,

the minims and trebles of fish

hushed into songbooks of ice.


Something didn’t sing, humped

in the net, thudding onto the deck.

Its ears heard no notes, its eyes were blind

to the men standing by, its throat

choked with words

that no one would hear.


They let the sly octopus

sidle to the ship’s side, forgot to stop

the arch and leap of bream.

The sea moaned, the fish

slipped out of tune, the kittiwakes

hurled screeches like broken strings.


The men unfroze, thumped

what didn’t sing, what was lost for words,

over the hissing deck. Tipped that which had

no hope, had never had a hope,

back to the sea. No

word, no hymn, no prayer.


But the wrack in the nets wept. The sea

beat its fists on the boat. And the wind got up

and howled till dawn.