The boats

There on the flat water
deep-housed things wait to swallow them,
the clean line of yesterday’s
horizon

having bled. This country
turns them back, the boats,
when they come sitting low in the water
with hope; pens push them

out to sea with rhetoric written for children —
stop the boats! stop the boats!
we stopped the boats!
— as if we’re stopping boats

not people. At Christmas Island
we watched the sickening water
take them — men, women, children —
white with horror; they litter

our shores these people,
their lives like splintered
wood. Tired Indonesian boats
will groan, give up,

slicking the water
with disgorged people,
the broken timber heedless, no
matter where we push them. If

not the women, the men, what if
the children moved us, their sparrow
chests, wings sodden —
what then?

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