PIRATE BLACKTARN CLEANS THE SHIP Pirate Blacktarn, Terror of the Lemon Seas Was feeling cross because he’d lost his keys. “This is a most untidy ship,” he grumbled, As he tripped on a rope and staggered and stumbled. “This ship must be tidied,” he shouted aloud, “I want a smart, clean ship, so I can feel proud. I want lots of space where I can put my feet. The deck should be spotless and shiny and neat.” Bosun Mick was sleeping soundly in his hammock But when Blacktarn said “Clean,” he fell out in shock. Rakesh the mate was strumming his guitar And singing a song about lands from afar. “Cleaning,” he hummed, “No, I don’t think so. Cleaning? I don’t like that idea, no.” “But Captain,” said Fay, “your cabin below, Is the untidiest place on the ship, I know.” Big Bob the Cook was feeding the mouse On sea snails and eel’s cheese, to eat in her house. “You’re making crumbs,” said Blacktarn, annoyed. “Crumbs,” said Bob, “are things you can’t avoid.” “That’s not the point,” said Blacktarn in a huff. “I want this ship to be clean enough For Neptune himself to eat off the deck, I want no more dirt, not a single speck.” The crew all sighed, feeling very sad, “Our poor Captain’s gone completely mad. You don’t clean pirate ships, they’re meant to be grimy, A little bit grubby and a little bit slimy.” But fearsome Blacktarn wouldn’t let them rest, He was determined Neptune must be impressed. So Rakesh the mate began a cleaning song, And they sang as they swept all the dirt along. “YO HO HO! This is a sad, sad, day, WOE WOE WOE! We must clean the dirt away. YO HO HO! This is hard, hard work, WOE WOE WOE! Our Captain’s gone berserk.” Parrot Tim lurked on top of the mast Till Blacktarn noticed and he flew away fast. Then Pirate Blacktarn began to tidy his cabin But all he really did was dump things in the bin. So Big Bob the Cook came to sort it all out And worked and worked till it was clean beyond doubt. Everyone swept and dusted and polished While the seagulls watched, utterly astonished. Then in the evening, when they could clean no more, A huge wave came with a great wild roar And swished and swashed all over the deck And rinsed off the dirt, to the very last speck. And then the sea turned red and then it turned gold And they saw all the sea nymphs, lovely to behold. And Neptune appeared, surrounded by light. “What a fine, tidy vessel,” he said, very polite. “Now we must celebrate this cleanest of ships, How about some crab cake and seaweed chips?” “Good idea, we’ll start cooking,” agreed all the crew. “Include us,” called the sea nymphs,” we’re joining you.” So they ate and danced and sang and had a lot of fun And forgot about the cleaning they’d all just done. It wasn’t till the moon left the early morning sky That Neptune and the sea nymphs waved them goodbye. And then the sun rose and gleamed very bright And shone on the shambles they’d made in the night. “What a disaster! Look at all the mess and murk! We’ve ruined all yesterday’s hard, hard work, Now we’ll have to clean all over again.” The sorry crew groaned at the thought of such a strain. “Nonsense,” said Blacktarn, “that would be a pain. Pirate ships are meant to be a little bit grimy, A little bit grubby and a little bit slimy. Now come on crew, don’t start dawdling and dusting. Let’s set sail before this ship starts rusting.”
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 twelve 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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