Maiden Voyage

by Niamh Prior


He spent weeks in the garage

gathering off-cuts of wood, 

sawing, banging, assembling 

a frankenstein of a boat.

When the frame was solid, 

he pulled old curtains taut over it,

nailed them in place, then took 

boxes of misshapen candles,


 - dinner table red, white, green -

and melted them until a thick 

wax skin the colour of seaweed 

coated her hull.When high tide 

swelled it was time. He picked me, 

the smallest one, as first mate.

I wore blue and white striped shorts,

and a matching blue t-shirt.


As we lowered her onto 

the water and stepped in, 

she wobbled, water lapping

high at her sides. He placed 

the oars in the oarlocks, 

turned her towards the island, 

and when he began to row 

I felt like I was leaving 


the earth. Children’s chatter

faded with the shore as I 

faced into the bright breeze.

We didn’t notice her gunwales 

getting closer to the surface

of the water until 

halfway there it spilled in, 

slowly at first, then gushed. 


I leaned from side to side,

scooped water with a bailer

made from half a plastic bottle.

The boat was filling faster. 

One of us will have to get out, 

he said, looking at me. 

I slid gently overboard.

I didn’t mind the cold or 


the swim to shore but walking 

up the crowded slip-way 

in sodden shorts and t-shirt hurt 

 - and watching her flounder. 

The next hot day her skin sagged 

and melted all around her 

where she lay, between 

the fibreglass boats at the beach.