EMERGENCY MINTS

A poem by Karen Jane Cannon, inspired by her father’s voyage across the English Channel as a novice sailor. Illustration by Oli Winward.

The summer our father sailed the English Channel,
we rolled packets of Polos into smooth white paper tubes.
My sister used her felt tip pens to write EMERGENCY

MINTS down each bony spine.
You were our polar explorer,
arctic adventurer.

We charted your route, coloured
the curved waves of land, solid
blue slab of sea.

And when you came back — all
St Tropez tan and French laugh,
Cognac and St Christopher,

we listened to your stories of basking sharks
and places orcas go to die, or you lashed
to the mast in a great wild storm, sucking

mints like tiny lifebelts. How you
were blown weightless
across the harbour, just missing the light

ship in the fog, the three of us
clinging to your legs as if your very voice
could stop us from drowning.


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