Setting Out – a poem by Barbara Daniels

Setting Out
		Ireland, 500 AD

He sings this: wicker boat 
covered with skins, light among 
rocks and out onto seafoam. 

Swans overhead follow each other 
north past the far edge of ocean. 
They know they’ll find land there.

He used to trade without speaking.
Men offered oil, wine, amber. 
He countered—hunting dogs, 

wool, his beautiful slave. Now 
he owns nothing. Who is he 
since he buried his sword 

and shield, his silver bowl 
embossed with the story of Christ 
and the story of Venus? 

He takes bread for a journey, steps 
into a rudderless, oarless boat. 
He may come to an island 

and live there, a hermit, 
or end with the grandeur 
of nothing, the last bit of bread. 

He sings this: Water 
my desert. My wicker boat. 
Swans fly. I follow.

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