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Michelle Bonczek-lV

The First Ship



The first change came in the clouds, light, as if heaven’s gates

were opening to take us in. But we were not taken in.

After we came ashore, we saw the dark woods

and were frightened. Our children wept as we took our first steps,

so many vines and lines of thorns tangling our footway.

The men cut them back with swords. They cut through

inch by inch until we found an open field wet with dusk.

We slept little that first night, dreamed strange shapes and pulsing

shadows of unknown animals, our skin loosed like husks

to the earth. That night we had gathered pieces of that dark forest

for fire. The flames rose so high light outshined

the moon. One woman began to hum a hymn we’d never heard before

and my feet, possessed by a power not my own, began to move.