Tender Ship


“We have seen them trying to get water out of the boat … it’s pretty overloaded there – it is pretty dangerous, just the number of people on board that boat.” –BBC’s Simon Jones, reporting from alongside a sinking refugee dinghy in the Dover Strait, August 10, 2020.


I know the difference between a stiff and tender ship
It has to do with balance and a certain stability
The kind that lets you roll into waves and take on water
                                                       then sluice it clean off
Or keep it on deck, until it seeks, as water always will,
its own path into the body. A tender ship is harder to correct.
I know the difference between a tender ship and a ship’s tender
How the latter is a little boat that shuttles between craft and shore
     turning water into care.
The same and not the same, these tender vessels, like the ship
of Theseus—or Pip, who, treading water, saw God’s foot upon the
treadle of the loom, and was changed. Water is intelligent.
It knows the fluid difference between tenderness and harm
will swallow whole the body it caresses, slip liquescence
like loving fingers between lips and limbs.
 No camera, please the man
in perfect English says, scooping water from the crowded dinghy
with wrecked hands. You can see it’s dangerous, the reporter says to the lens
then steadies his body to yell across an oceanic distance
Where are you from?

Catherine Gander