The Pressing

The Pressing prose poem

Photo by pedrosimoes7

“HMS Trincomalee, British Man-O-War, sixty guns, one hundred gross tons was she,
The Purser and Pressman am I, managing a pressgang in strict service of country and King.
Her ships bell marking time; bosun pipes: Captain arrives! She’ll turn with the tide: To sea!
Unforgiving course we make, enemy lives we shall take, as spoils of Trincomalee cannon’s flare,
Master, commander, strategist and sea battle planner, lays to waste by unequaled barrage,
For disdain or despairs of salty men’s glares; they shall oblige the captain his standing,
Shall she soon sail away upon the high tide today, with my prisoner bound tightly inside her.”

“Throughout Brightlingsea to West Mersea on down to Maldon at River Blackwater,
I prowl pubs and crawls, behind low stepped walls, where drunkards find their snug harbors,
Aye, settle on in and begin with my grins that will be confidence lit in presumption,
My guile and timed ruse, the vilest untruth, disguised as rum’s warm winter clothing.
Aye, set here with me, let us speak tales of the sea, and say what your last ship was she?
Your skills are shipshape and fine, as well as are mine, have a drink doff our glasses last falling,
Upon reaching for bread, my sap struck his hard head, my open arms his next port o’ calling.”

“I tipped at my cap, laid gold coins on the mat, and shouldered away my sleeping prize,
To a trapdoor concealed, amongst barrels and debris, in a backroom darkness none dare go;
Passing him through, to my oarsmen times two, settled all into the bowels of our launch.
Let go the painter and pull hard for the freighter, my lads we have captured a mate,
A cannon man proud, likes it hot- likes it loud, his iron balls flying death come asunder,
Make him fast and below, trussed up tight for a blow, his next waking under sail, the North Sea.
Though he’s been hard at the jug, at those binders he’ll tug, aye, may he shiver me timbers.”

“Weighed the hook at eight bells amid shouts, hearty yells, from the townsfolk seeing us away,
Heybridge Basin astern, we then made our first turn, taking Osea Island to starboard.
Main’sle, aye, top’sles, sprit’sles and for’sles; set topgallants, bend on the spanker to leeward,
Sweat the halyards, trim the sheets, make her course steady bear east sow’ east, six–eight-oh;
Stand by the helm, set the watches, trim the sails, swing the lead bring forth soundings below.”
HMS Trincomalee under way, down River Blackwater, to the sea and adventure beyond-
Whilst bound in the fo’cs’sle, cramped dimly dank quarters, a rum soaked mate dumbly stirs.

Pressman’s surname was Burr, Jamison Burr, to be sure, son of a baker and lady in waiting.
Gained a love for the sea, as a young lad he be, while seaside holidays he fondly remembers;
Family would visit the coast, summer days dry as toast, mother dressed him in sailor’s attire,
As they strolled on the quay, those great ships brought him glee, a sailor life’s chance destiny.
Family bought him promise and favor, a great school, education, a naval officer he did become;
But a mean disposition, a love to fight opposition, found his calling disciplines painful attendee.
Time’s a following sea, comes from behind, lifts you free, from a trough of despair; aye, misery!

By streets gutters, rats, detritus and clutter, amid tramps and fancy painted ladies for hire,
Young Aden fast became tough, got smart and played rough, a man best left un-trifled with,
Aden McGee son of whomever they be, found his life love in munitions, explosives and thieves;
Powder burn scars of honor, among those became cannon fodder burning destruction set free,
Roaring cannon, pistol cracking, grand explosions never lacking: sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter:
T’was the spice at his supper, used up kegs in ships scuppers, iron balls with fusing his repast,
Like a child with a toy, the flames and smoke made his joy; ruin bringing tears o’ great laughter.

After three days at sea Jamison Burr set Aden free from a compartment, aye, the rope locker,
Looking each other over, speaking not, most unlikely opponents, their minds quickly assumed;
They would not be as brothers, long lost friends, maddened lovers, felt only loathing disguised,
Aden brought here not of free will, Jamison Burr had to persuade his surrender of free spirit,
To fight strong at crew’s side when eventful fight has turned tide, Aden’s loyalty in affirmation,
Aden could read from his plea, Pressman could not set him free, only death by way freedom be,
A wager was made, to the death they’d fight brave, the winner would taste life’s sweet liberty.

Loyalty would sooner attest, cries coming down from crow’s nest, high atop the foremast tree,
Fast frigate off the port quarter, a French ensign she’s a’ flying, a valued prize for Trincomalee,
Two fifty-six crewman ready, come about easy an’ steady, absolute bearing cross by her stern,
Cannons readied with grapeshot, men at battle stations all set, swords and muskets at hand,
Boarding lines in their fists, the first salvo flew like a mist of hot iron as she came along side,
Splinters flew, canvas holed the return fire was bold, Trincomalee had her nailed down in irons,
Ships moved port to starboard, victory’s fight at close quarter, ensign captured by Trincomalee.

Was yet one battle to fight, neither man wrong nor either one right, a score to settle; aye, now!
Aden ended cannon spree saw his chance to be free, Jamison Burr his opportunity at present,
Put behind them the battle, their cutlass’s rattled, tempers blazed in bold fury filled revelation,
Rushing each other full stride, drawing swords from their sides, murderous intention at hand,
Parry and Riposte, neither gave way, paid no quarter, life riskily balanced on honed steel edges,
Swordsmen hacking and crashing, exposed muscles, blades slashing as enemies in contest bled;
Jamison Burr and Aden McGee, spirits crossing destiny’s sea, once recklessly free, now lay dead.

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floorman2012

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"Let every word tell; Make every word count!" Those words were spoken by Ed Fike, editor of editorial page of the San Diego union newspaper in 1981, when I took his night school journalism course at San Diego City College. Mr. Fike had a profound influence on the way I approach writing. I believe he had a profound influence on everyone he met. Anyway, I did not pursue a career in journalism, but instead became a tradesman, earning my living with my hands. Writing is my hobby and pastime.
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Nadeem Qazilbash
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They had to die. This is the inevitable end to such a story, could it have been different, could strife resolve itself. Unortunately impossible.

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