The Advance Party

We woke to the sound of nothing,
the lack of that forty-day thrum:
the rain had stopped, wind stilled; we rocked
so gently in our coffin-cradle
you might have thought
our parent slept.

I threw the hatch back; saw a square
of clear grey sky; smelt damp air
– and, frightened, shut it out,
needing (I said) to think.
It was warm inside.
Safe there, enclosed in darkness,
accustomed to the swaying floor,
the solid walls and roof,
I’d chosen to forget we had
to touch the ground again.

That night we feasted, sang,
laughed and gave thanks,
snug in our floating box. I crept away,
up to the deck where the birds roosted.
Most slept, but one raven, dark
in the dark shadows, blinked at me
with gold-rimmed eye. I chose her.
Tough claws gripping my fingers, we climbed
up, up to the hatch and that
empty square of sky.

She knew better than I did;
she flew before I was ready
to let her go.
My hand was light without her.
I watched the sky as long as I could bear it;
then, dizzy, I shut the hatch again,
and tried to forget her.

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