(regarding the legend behind female figureheads on ships)
under the fraudulent cover of a soporific oh, so slender decresent moon
a harem of brazenly snooping sparkling stars affording sufficient glow
the small craft makes light work of glinting, inconsequential ripples
carrying she of captivating looks and charming demeanour away
surrendering the hustle and bustle of Tripoli’s manic harbour
for El Mina’s gulf and sanctuary of this resting rover’s ship
the overmuch amorous sheik back in Bagdad overlooked
her talent of foresight, seeking to tether both she and
her cloaked duplicitous affections by draping her in
opulent golden bangles as article of ostentation
bangles by insistence she declared should be
set permanent, fixed about her petite wrists
oft glimpsed ankles and much kissed neck
no stinking rich emir ever the match
for a Machiavellian mademoiselle
bent upon profit and swift
getaway on her mind
travelling as part
of her brazen
I knew full well that laying claim to the lives of the unsuspecting and seeking out untried antidotes for seasickness were masked by titanic beauty beyond measure, false manners beyond refute. Still I cared not a jot, my promise of safe passage back to Tilbury for the price of just a worthwhile few shavings of gold, sufficient. Not so my superstitious crew, believing as they did the old adage that a girl on board ship angered intemperate seas that would take out perilous retribution.
Safely outside the Pillars of Hercules, north into Biscay’s Bay the seas turned foul, tempest beyond measure, the ghost of Jonah nod. Yet, leaving the relative safety of her quarters, she took to the deck
unperturbed by ill looks of fearful mariners of unfounded fears. Seemingly satisfied as to the general state of affairs, she returned below deck. As if by magic, the storm abated, all was quiet, Davy Jones downhearted.
Later, from the warm comfort of my captain’s cabin, “You have no figurehead captain?” she observed over a salted beef dinner, adding, “Surely, you’ve heard tell the bare breasts of a women perched on the bow of the ship, ‘shames the stormy seas into calm and her open eyes guides all seamen to safety’?” Plainly I responded by advising that of course I knew, yet put it down to an old wives’ tale. “Then you really know nothing, do you? Back in London you will forego your golden fee, instead I shall model for your figurehead. An equitable arrangement do you not agree?” I found such overture impossible to refuse, she had me in her spell. Even my crew thought well of her proposal, notwithstanding lost income.
Regardless, model she did, our heroine she became. It was a good likeness and over time her figurehead became the very spirit of the vessel of 1,000 more violent commotions adrift. Upon departing for ‘wherever’, I felt compelled to ask of her, “That night of the storm, you made for the bow I recall…you didn’t…surely not…did you?” Her riposte, “I’ll leave that to your imagination.” I never saw or heard of her again.