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By Agata Palmer

My father was a captain ordered to cross the Baltic in a boat

with a half-sealed bow door, barely watertight, but luckier

than the Zeebrugge ferry, which capsized when water poured in,

drowning one hundred and ninety-three of its passengers.

The responsibility perforated his stomach, ulcers flooding his gut

with blood while our relationship was already haemorrhaging.

He survived but, seen as added stress, I wasn’t allowed to visit –

I emigrated across the sea to create enough distance between us.

None of it matters right now, as I’m floating down the River Avon

drenched in summer birdsong, in the slow flow of a Sunday morning,

with a friend beside me, our things bundled inside a high-tech sack

for an easy swim, even though we are carrying everything we need.

Suddenly I’m thinking about that dark night on the Belgium coast

the people thrown from The Herald into the English Channel –

and refugees falling from their rafts into the Mediterranean,

after making the impossible choice to leave, now unable to float.

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