Pilgrim – poem for dVerse

Such a small boat
to set sail in, so far
across the world,
such a small cargo
of faith and hope
and not much else

and the white petals
drift like sea-foam

and such a small boat
leaving a small town,
the water shimmering
beneath the bow
and not much defence
against storms
except that small cargo
heavy with hope
weighted with faith

and the sea foam
drifting like white petals

and all the while
gazing for the horizon
and someone vomiting
and always the sound
of someone praying
and the sound of a child
sobbing, and the call
of the sea-birds
and the stink of the hold
and the salt pork
and the cracked skin
on your hands,
held up always
in supplication

and the sea foam
and the white petals

and the homecoming

Lillian is hosting at dVerse tonight, interrupting her holiday to tend the bar. She’s in Province Town on Cape Cod – head over to see a fantastic video of a whale watching trip, and some great holiday snaps. The Pilgrim Fathers landed there first, but didn’t care for it (why???) and moved on.

Interestingly, my local town has a tradition of building ridiculous bonfires, and over the next couple of years the town Cavaliers are going to be finishing off a replica of the Mayflower. You can see what they are doing here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-devon-49144207/replica-mayflower-built-to-be-burned-in-great-torrington

They’ve built various other things in the past – HMS Victory, the Great Fire of London, a castle, the local church (the one that was blown up in the English Civil War). They raise loads of money for charity. They put a huge amount of work in, and it all culminates in a massive bonfire and fireworks display. They do it in a spirit of love.

Our next nearest town, Bideford, was the port from which the first colonists of North America left to establish Roanoke.

This poem was inspired by those brave people setting out in those tiny boats to travel crazy distances, and it’s a little link between me in Devon and Lil in Cape Cod.

21 thoughts on “Pilgrim – poem for dVerse

  1. LOVE this and love your explanation at the end! Ah yes….we are definitely connected my friend!
    I love the refrain here….and these words are heart rending:
    “and the cracked skin
    on your hands,
    held up always
    in supplication”

    I truly cannot imagine what it must have been like — pilgrims at sea in flimsy boats.
    And then I think of those trying to flee tyrannical countries and poverty and chaos – trying to seek asylum and coming my whatever means they can. I imagine their hands at the borders, in supplication as well.
    An excellent post!


    • I used to drive past a replica of the Matthew (Newfoundland) in Bristol harbour. It’s so tiny! I wouldn’t cross the Channel in it, never mind the Atlantic! Do you know, I hadn’t consciously thought of those refugee boats when I wrote this, but of course they are travelling in fear and faith and hope, and now I think they must have been in my thoughts all along, too.


  2. A very exhilarating ride/voyage/read. Like other ancient mariners, it is astonishing to see the toy ships they sailed in. Like Lindberg’s flight in his tiny plane. Like John Glen in his skin tight capsule.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed the poem and the historical and other notes at the end. I’d love to see the ‘ridiculous bonfires’ with the replicas. Thank goodness for those little links! And you’re right, the boats the pilgrims set sail in weren’t very big. I love the lines:
    ‘such a small cargo
    of faith and hope
    and not much else’
    and the way the poem shifts from
    ‘…the sea foam
    drifting like white petals’
    to the horrors of the journey:
    ‘…the stink of the hold
    and the salt pork
    and the cracked skin
    on your hands’.
    The Pilgrim Fathers also had strong links to Norfolk.


  4. Reality seeps in so slowly in this three masted devotional, so rich with the lilt of faith it’s jarring to catch up with the realities of sea-travel, third person becoming second, become … a homecoming. Well done.


  5. Such a tragedy that there are so many who will take this risk to escape the tyranny of their homelands. Living here in Florida, I’ve heard many stories of those who made the treacherous trip across the Atlantic from Cuba to try and reach here only to lose their lives. There is one very well known story of a mother and her tiny son who made the trip in a tire. The mother died but the boy survived. Your poem really touched my emotions, Sarah; I like when that happens.


  6. like this….captures the ups and downs of a sea journey…particularly the passage depicting the realities…vomiting, cracked skin, salt pork, the stink of the hold….you have a way with the details! JIM


  7. This is such a wonderful perspective of that willingness to take a risk for a new life, as those who first came to our shores from yours. I see it as an extended metaphor for life itself–a fragile white petal on a rough journey at times.


  8. This for me seems to capture our life journey too. There’s a Quaker insight into understanding death as a journey ‘ like friends cross the seas, they live in us still’. And of course in those early days and religious persecution in England and Europe many did take that Atlantic trip to a new world. In hope and faith and that people still need to escape is a sad reflection. You have stirred up many things for me in a moving poem.


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