A LULLABY FOR THE STOWAWAYS

black white

A lullaby for the exposed stowaways, the very least the First Mate could do

In the safety of his quarterdeck cabin, away from the attentions of the rest of the crew

Outward bound from Havana, on a paddle steamer under auxiliary sail

Keeps an even keel in a big sea, keeps a straight line in the face of a gale

Black tea, bully beef and oat biscuits, from the galley were all he could filch

She stuffs it down as if there’s no tomorrow, nods, says, ‘It has to be better than zilch’

The babe at her breast falls asleep now, Brahms soft cradle song works once again

By candlelight and eerie shadows, to the restless creak of the hull under strain

He asks the girl for her story, what took her from her plantation to here

Yet a reticence quite overwhelms her, she just responds, ‘I had to disappear’

Port of Rotterdam bound and a new old life, ‘You won’t tell The Master you’ve hidden us away?’

He draws on his clay pipe, thinking out loud, ‘I’ll do my level best to keep him at bay

Try best you can to keep the child quiet, and just leave whatever else up to me’

She takes his words of comfort at face value, rests her fate in the hands of a cruel sea

Sea serpents, two weeks and a full moon later, at harbour side she seeks out a new hiding place

Now disguised as an Ordinary Seaman, her babe tucked up safe and sound in her travelling suitcase

On the bank of the Nieuwe Maas river, the First Mate kisses his charges farewell

A respectful peck on the cheek for the fine lady, a tearful smacker upon the brow of her little girl

A hurriedly arranged a coach-and-four awaits her, she a blue blood white princess so brave

And at last sanctuary for her girl child, fathered by her lost lover, a callously murdered black slave

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23 thoughts on “A LULLABY FOR THE STOWAWAYS

  1. Besides your poetry, I love your picture selections — archetypal images emerging from darkness or oceans or cosmic space. That one from “Walk-on Part in a War” is stylistically so reminiscent of Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son”!

    • Ah the ‘hook’ pictures…always feel a bit guilty adding those if the truth be told. Also I found it interesting compiling material for my books working out which from the blog I might use and how they read without said hook. Certainly within the net there are some fine works of art to be discovered…that’s for sure

      • Interesting dilemma about which texts best survive the removal of the visual hook. A fascinating study in its own right. Similarly, I’ve found the some great live poetry doesn’t work on the page and vice versa.

      • Good point. For me Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas worked far better for me than ‘me’ reading his work from the page…having said that Thomas was a master of his craft.

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