By Jay Nicholls
PIRATE BLACKTARN AND THE WORM Pirate Blacktarn, Terror of the Lemon Seas Was feeling so hungry he ate three teas And even after that he still wanted more. He ate cookies and cakes and puddings galore. But though Big Bob the Cook kept cooking and cooking Blacktarn ate parrot food when Tim wasn’t looking. He ate sea weed and star fish and slippery eels And doughnuts and dumplings, all between meals. “You’ll burst,” said Mick, “this is rather a worry.” “No I won’t,” answered Blacktarn, eating barnacle curry. “This is ridiculous,” said Big Bob, feeling cross, “You’re eating more than the great albatross. The ship’s stores and supplies are vanishing fast, These barrels of food are meant to last.” But even though Blacktarn still ate and ate He went on being hungry from morning till late. In the middle of the night he crept out of his hammock To try asking for crumbs from the wild seagull flock. And he stole Big Bob’s stew that he’d d only just made In a secret and stealthy, dark midnight raid. But strangest of all, he grew more and more thin. His cheeks became hollow and sunken in. His legs and arms looked like sticks on a twig And only his tummy stayed round and big. “I’m fading away,” cried Blacktarn, eating some more, “I’ll be nothing but a belly with the food it can store.” “Something very strange is going on here,” Said Bob to Rakesh, who was standing near. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” “What?” asked Blacktarn, his fearful heart sinking. “Worms!” said Bob. “WORMS!” cried Blacktarn. “HELP! HELP! I’ve got WORMS!” A small sneaky worm living in a ship’s biscuit Had jumped right out when Blacktarn bit into it. It had slithered down his throat and settled in his stomach And once it was there, it couldn’t believe its luck, For so much food kept coming its way, Chocolate and cake, sweets and biscuits, day after day, That the worm grew bigger and bigger and bigger While Blacktarn shrank to a small, thin figure. “Help,” groaned Blacktarn, so scared he nearly cried, “I’ll starve to death with this worm inside.” “Don’t worry Captain,” said Rakesh the mate, “We’ll see this worm has a nasty fate.” And he took out his pipe and started to play In a wiggly, weavy, wormy way. And the worm stopped eating and started to listen To the magical music that made his eyes glisten. The tune sang of sea serpents swimming through the waves And electric eels in undersea caves And the gleaming glow worms that light up the deeps And the huge ocean snake that never ever sleeps. And the worm uncurled and started to rise In Blacktarn’s stomach which burped in surprise. And Rakesh played on, in his wriggly way And the worm began to squirm, then started to sway Forwards and back he wriggled his body about Till he reached Blacktarn’s mouth and peered right out. Then fast as a dart swooped Parrot Tim And grabbed the worm and pulled and pulled him. Until out he wriggled all pink and squirmy And Tim quickly snatched him and dropped him in the sea, Where he swam away most unhappily. Hurrah, hurrah Captain,” everyone cried. “Hurrah,” exclaimed Blacktarn, “that worm’s not inside. But I’m feeling so hungry I really need a feast Now I’ve got rid of that slinky slimy beast.” Big Bob groaned but began cooking again And they ate huge helpings of cake and sugar cane And mangoes and melons all firm and ripe, While Rakesh played more tunes on his marvellous pipe. And they danced the dance of the greedy little worm Until Blacktarn spoke, sounding very firm, “Of course no worm could last long in a pirate like me But now I’m worm free and I’m not even hungry, I think we should sail again, 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 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.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL