blackbirdonline journalSpring 2009  Vol. 8  No. 1
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Night Ship to Ceuta

The old man behind his cage in the ticket office asked what I wanted. “Ceuta,” I said. “I would like to go to Ceuta.” “Go?” he said. “You think the ship will go?” I asked if there was a saving on a round-trip ticket? He looked at the clock, which seemed to have stalled at a quarter to three & laughed, “You plan on returning?” He pushed an elaborate document across the counter & told me to sign my life away. On the dock I watched them loading small trucks with their Berber drivers into the hold as the oily waters off the pier began to turn from blue to black. It had been a brilliant, cloudless day. Beside the road to Algeciras I’d suddenly seen the Atlas Mountains emerging from their haze and thought, Africa, a whole new world! Once we were away a golden sun hovered off the straits for a long minute & then inched into the sea. I could hear water crashing into the hull & beneath that the steady beating of the engine & beneath that the wind whispering “Ceuta” in my good ear. At last my heart began to slow. Ahead there was only darkness.