The French for Death
I trampled ants on the quay at Dieppe, dawdling
by the desk where they wouldn’t take yes for an answer;
yes, it was our name and spelled just so –
Dad repeated it in Oldham’s finest guttural,
we shook our heads at Moor and Maud and Morden.
Rope swung from the captain’s fist
and lashed the water. I saw him shudder,
troubled by a vision of our crossing:
glower of thunder, the lurch and buckle
of the ferry. I looked him in the eye
and popped my bubblegum. Child
from the underworld in red sandals
and a Disney t-shirt, not yet ashamed
by that curt syllable, not yet the girl
who takes the worst route home, pauses
at the mouths of alleyways, or kisses
strangers on the nameless pier; eyes open,
staring out to sea, as if, in the distance
there’s the spindle of a shipwreck,
prow angled to a far country.
from Division Street (Chatto & Windus, 2013), © Helen Mort 2013, used by permission of the author.