I knew exactly what my boat could do
and as much as any man, knew what
the sea would do, it's tides, it's shifting sands.
It was January, if you want to hear,
and cold as we could stand it. We'd already
rowed through breakers taller than a man
to reach the Pyrin and carried every soul
to Cromer. Then the Fernebo hit a naval mine
and split in two. We made a chain of men
to walk into the water to reach the nearest half.
I shouted into the wind and every man
among them heard each word.
The rest of the Fernebo was too far out
so we launched the boat three times
against the sea and three times the water
spat us back on shore till midnight came
and beneath the searchlights from the clifftop
we pulled the oars as if our own fathers
were in that ship and reached the crew in time.
Those were the days, when I sold deck chairs
for a living, when the oars were all we had
to take us out and bring us back again.
Kim Moore works as a peripatetic brass teacher for Cumbria Music Service and is one of two resident poets for the first Leeds Independent Poetry Press Festival. In 2010 she was longlisted for an Eric Gregory award alongside winning the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.