It happened quite a lot

back then – death at sea

is what I mean – it almost

happened to me after we’d

berthed offshore near a new

refinery port in Nigeria – it was

called Port Harcourt which is

somewhere I didn’t want to

end up on a stone cold slab.

Mosquitoes are far too bold

for their skimpy size and have

a lot to answer for – they bite

you in the night – a bum or thumb

makes little difference to them

in fact anywhere exposed will do.

I realised something was amiss

when the sweats began – and

fellow crewmen sized me up with

that knowing look and I was isolated

just in case it was infectious – better

take no risks as it were – a prayer here

and a prayer there is how they dealt

with things back then or if at all, with

other thoughts to occupy crew minds.

Occasionally something was pushed

through my cabin door – water – food

before the caller left with worried looks

but anxious not to talk to someone given

up for nearly dead – lest they themselves

might be privy to the same sorrowful fate.

They seemed to leg it quick in case they

caught as well a dose of what it was that

had me at death’s door. Yet despite it all

I did survive – though skeletal and wan

but crewmen still looked on askance when

finally I emerged to tread again the decks

Mother was appalled when once again I

entered through the door at No 34, and

recognised my battle with the bugs. You

see, her brother James had earlier died

at sea – but no one understood the malady

of how our sailors passed aboard a boat

however much they would be missed

although were quietly spoken of with awe.

Now let me tell you why a sailor always

worries at the sight of albatrosses perched

on stern rails staring at suspicious crews




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Peter Taylor

Sun 18th Aug 2019 06:40

What a feast of Philipos at the best time of day when there are no interruptions. I think Alexandra is right in pointing out the infectious rhythm (which is there in all the poems I have read this morning), the quality of which matches the sometimes quirky but always exciting storyline.

Thank you so much.

Peter T

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Alexandra Parapadakis

Thu 15th Aug 2019 09:23

Reading this was like being in a trance. This reads like a sudden rush of someone’s stream of consciousness - yet with infectious rhythm. The absurdity and quirkiness of the voice/tone mixed with the heaviness of the dark topic is a captivating contrast - it weirdly reminded me of Catch 22.

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