Tristan Corbiere

The Cabin Boy

— Cabin boy: tell me, is your
father a sailor?
— A fisherman. Lost long ago.
Rising from my mother’s side, he
went out to sleep with the breakers.

In the cemetery Mother keeps
his tomb — an empty one.
In this world, I am her husband now,
and work to earn bread for
the other children — the two tiny ones.

— So then, nothing washed in to
shore after the shipwreck?
— His tobacco pouch and
one wooden shoe.

On Sunday, as she rests, Mother
weeps… Me, I’ll get even.
When I grow up, I’m off
to be a sailor.

— translated from the French by Thomas Feeny