He’s eighteen, escaping conscription,
abandoning France. On the open sea
here’s Earth’s rim like he’s never seen it,
a blurred brush-line of purple on aquamarine.
‘Sorrow. Deep melancholy. My affections
still with those I left behind. The world
seemed a great wilderness.’ Haiti at three,
the forest at Nantes, and now this.
He can’t remember leaving Saint Domingue.
Wherever he’s been he’s watched birds.
‘I felt an intimacy with them, bordering
on frenzy.’ He reads La Fontaine
and scatters ship’s biscuit on deck.
A flock of brown pipits falls
from the heavens like a shaft of winter sun.
‘They came on board wearied. So hungry.’
The crew see a forest now. A shore…
he knew it. Birds unlock
everything. An inlet, wide, deep and certain.
Cries of gulls above East River docks.