A strange tale in verse by Jay Nicholls
Pirate Blacktarn, terror of the Lemon Seas Shivered in an icy breeze. “This is odd,” he muttered crossly, “Suddenly I’m feeling chilly.” “This is weird,” the crew agreed. Big Bob grumbled, “it’s cold indeed.” Colder it grew as the days went past. The North Wind blew with an icy blast. Blacktarn stayed in his cabin by the fire, Piling the coals up higher and higher. Poor Tim Parrot could hardly speak, For a giant icicle hung from his beak. “This is dreadful,” groaned all the crew. The tips of their noses had turned pale blue. Then a monstrous iceberg passed them by With a jagged tip nearly scraping the sky. Blacktarn stayed in his cabin, very snug Where the roaring fire made a cosy fug. “What’s happened” wondered the frozen crew, The Lemon Sea’s turned an icy hue.” Then Stowaway Fay jumped up suddenly And emptied out her mug of tea. She tied it fast to the end of a rope And dropped it into the sea, in hope. Back she hauled it and started to drink. But the taste of the water made her think. It was chilly and strange and salty to savour, Not a hint of lemon was in its flavour. “I knew it,” she cried, though her voice was hoarse “Our daft Captain’s set the wrong course! Of navigation he hasn’t a notion, We’re adrift in the Arctic Ocean!” At this the crew grew very mad. “Our daft Captain is really bad.” Below decks they charged with an angry roar And banged on Blacktarn’s cabin door. Blacktarn pretended he didn’t hear, He hid in the cupboard, quaking with fear. “Silly Captain, you’ve read the chart wrong, Now take us back where we belong.” “It’s not my fault,” he squeaked through the door, “I’ve never read a sea chart before.” The crew let out a mighty groan. “Typical, we might have known.” “Well,” said Fay, “we’ll read the chart. Hand it over, let’s make a start.” Blacktarn pushed it under the door And the crew spread it out across the floor. “We go north, no east, no nor’,nor’ west.” “No,” said Fay, “south is best.” But which way was south? No one knew Until through the door Tim Parrot flew. The fire began melting his frozen beak And at last poor Tim was able to speak. “This way’s south, just follow me, I can guide you back to safety.” Just ahead of the ship he flew, Hoping to find the waters they knew. At long, long last, they smelled lemon in the air. “Hurrah, hurrah, we’re nearly there.” Then out came Blacktarn, onto the deck, “Just come to give the sea chart a check, Now that we’re back in the Lemon Seas at large. Of course with a captain like me in charge You know you really can’t fare badly, Come on crew, keep sailing across the Lemon Sea.”
Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are eleven poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).
Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.
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