The Wake

The ship North sailed from Ireland to Australia in 1883; six children died
on the 3 month voyage.

You must put it behind you
someone said –
like the wake that swallowed my daughter.

When they wrapped her up
in a canvas bag,
placed her into my arms,
she was the weight
of a bundle of washing;
her small body
stitched into the sailcloth.

On night watch, time of sea burials
I softly laid her on the deck;
the doctor said some prayers;
I wore my Sunday dress
and bonnet to see her off.

The captain swung the lantern
under a band of stars
as they lowered her down
to the foaming flowers –
waves which would beat
the fever from her, waves like
creamy clusters on the rowan tree at home.

Even the crew cried
for the un-lived life of my child.
Marianne, Marianne, I called,
and the wind carried her name away.

Denise Bennett