Leaving Abyssinia

by Denise Saul

A foghorn sounds: I notice the distance
between houses and the shore
as the ship pulls away from a pillar:
strata of limestone, clay and granite.
A wall of fog drifts towards the coast;
gulls peck at moss behind a stone ledge.
I sit in a cabin without windows,
unable to tell if I’m moving or not.

I cannot hear what grandfather shouts
from the pier – goodbye – perhaps.
The wind billows in the smell of mackerel.
At night, nothing is certain when I leave
this land where morning and night
come so close together that fishermen
who return boats at sunset
hail those who sail theirs out at dawn.

An hour later, the clock ticks the same way.
It’s 1.30 a.m. and as I’m still
awake, I light an oil-lamp to read a book.
I packed books which were needed:
World Dress by Frances Burnett,
Oxford English Reference Dictionary
and Greek Myths by Robert Graves.

Here, there is no Odysseus to let passengers know
that the ship’s motion is ‘uniform’.
I recall that phrase from a lesson at school
as that formula was rote learnt:
every body continues… in its state
of rest or of uniform motion… in a right line
unless it is compelled… to change
that state by forces impressed upon it.
I leaf through the story of the Clashing Rocks;
all the sun returns to the underworld.