There are a handful of ways you could celebrate National Poetry Month: cake… mouthfuls and mouthfuls of cake; become a poet’s wealthy (and infinitely generous) patron; write a poem a day for NaPoWriMo; or enjoy the poems of past MCC fellows and finalists here on ArtSake.
Our next poem is by the terrific Caroline Knox (Poetry Fellow ’96, ’06) – an oddly timely verse in these days of real-life, high seas piracy.
Your handsome workmanlike fourmaster,
out on a reach, no sight of land,
mirrors the adventure tales for children and grownups – oh, isn’t the brightwork
bright; oh, the cannon royal, the twenty-four pounders.
It’s safe to assume that you have eighty-six guns.
But these aren’t worth the powder
it takes to blow them to hell.
Shipmasters long ago thought up this protection:
they’re Quaker guns, a creative ruse, the kind you couldn’t and wouldn’t
shoot: they’re flotsam and jetsam, or any old trees, ships’ logs.
They’re broken masts. They’re the Friends of the Friends.
These logs are laid in the loading trays –
you have twelve cannon at most, but they look like an armada.
So privateers mistake the logs for guns, and they scarpa,
intimidated by driftwood posing as ordnance.
No pirate would go anywhere near you.
Caroline Knox, “Quaker Guns” from Quaker Guns. Copyright 2008 by Caroline Knox. Reprinted with permission of Wave Books.
Caroline Knox is the author of numerous books, including Quaker Guns and the upcoming limited-edition, hand-sewn volume of prose, Nine Worthies, which will be part of Wave Book’s 2010 subscription.
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