The Pressing Redux

The Pressing Redux long poem

Photo by amandabhslater

“HMS Trincomalee, a British Corvette, sixth rate warship of 28 guns, Five hundred gross tons was she.
The King’s Pressman am I, handling a pressgang of five, My firm service of country and King.
Her ships bell marking time; bosun pipes: Captain arrives; She’ll turn with the tide, off to sea!
A Deliberate course we will make, opposing lives we shall take, As spoils of Trincomalee’s hot cannons flare.
Master, ships commander, strategist sea battle planner, Her captain lays to waste by unrivaled barrage,
For unspoken qualms or despairs of salty men’s glares; They shall all indulge the captain’s ungracious stares. Shall she soon sail away, upon the turning high tide today?
Yes, with my prisoner certain tightly inside her!”

“Throughout Brightlingsea to West Mersea on down to Maldon, At River Blackwater,
I prowl rowdy pubs and the crawls, behind low stepped walls, Where drunkards may find their snug harbors.
Aye, I’ll settle on in, begin buying the house ale and cheap gin, That will be confidence lit in presumption,
My guile and timed ruse, spout the vilest untruth, Disguised in rum’s warm winter clothing.
Aye, set here with me, let us together speak our tales of the sea, Aye, say you? Whom your last ship was she?
Your seamanship rounded and fine, through qualms and gales blowing brine,

Let us drink to fair seas, easy swells rising a’ falling,

But Upon reaching for dried bread, my lead sap struck his hard head, My open arms his next port o’ calling.”

“I tipped the barman my cap, laid gold coins on the mat, Then shouldered away my unconscious prize,
To a trapdoor concealed, amongst barrels, cargo nets and debris, A tavern backroom darkness brave vermin dare go;
Passing him through, to my hearty oarsmen times two, Settled him roughly into the bowels of our launch.
Ley go the painter and pull hard for our freighter, My lads we have captured us a munitions mate, A cannon man proud, likes it hot- likes it loud, Cast iron balls flying death come asunder,
Then make him fast forward 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, waking free he may shiver me timbers.”

“Weighed the hook at eight bells amid shouts, hearty yells, As crew and townsfolk watched mooring lines slip 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, and make her course steady: South by Southeast, by the lee, make all sheets ready;
Stand by the helm, set the watches, trim the sails,

Swing the lead make soundings of depths swirling eddy.” HMS Trincomalee fresh off to sea, easy down River Blackwater, To the open ocean her mission on station beyond-
Whilst bound in the fo’cs’sle, in cramped dimly lit quarters, A rum soaked mate numbed; dumbly stirs.

His surname was Burr, Jamison Burr, to be sure, Proud son of King’s second, Queen’s lady in waiting. Gained a love for the sea, as a young lad at three, After holidays he fondly remembers:
Family would visit the coast, summer days dry as toast, His mother dressed him in sailor’s attire,
As they strolled on the quay, those great ships brought him glee, A navel man, was his true destiny.
Affluence provided favor, sailing skills, the best schooling, An officer’s navel degree a future of promise,
But a mean disposition, a love to fight all opposition, His brutal passion was a painful attendee.
Time’s a following sea, comes from behind, lifts you free, From a trough of despair; aye, misery!

Raised near the gutter, ally rats and the clutter, Amid tramps and fancy painted ladies for hire,
Young Aden fast became tough, got smart and played rough, A man-brute best left unprovoked.
Aden McGee: son of whomever they may be, Found passion with munitions, explosives and thieves;
Powder burn scars of honor, among whom became cannon fodder,

Burning quick-tempered destruction set free,

Roaring cannons, pistols cracking, grand explosions never lacking, Sulfur, charcoal mixed with saltpeter:
It was the spice at his supper, kept in kegs in ships scuppers, Iron mortars with fusing his evenings repast,
Like a child with a toy, the flames and smoke made his joy; Ruin raining down tears o’ great laughter.

Three days at sea Mister Burr set young Aden free, Sea room astern pacified his unbound displeasure,
Amid rising seas, Aden chewed on bread and hard cheese, A double ration of rum sampling miseries treasure.
As their ship rose and fell, with each passing swell, They found common ground in a small wooden cask, They were edged in distrust, like ships breads salty crust, Aye, warriors steady for battles bloody task.
Jamison Burr offered McGee- foundling comrade at sea, Share booty from Trincomalee’s won prizes,
To yet fight strong at crew’s side when eventful fight has turned tide, As surely as the sun sets and rises.
Aden swore his allegiance to crew, his cannons sights fixed straight and true Pass the jug Mister Burr, “What say you?”

“The albatross is my winged brother, grand blue whales sang to my mother, Ocean zephyrs whistle and beckon whilst I’m away,
For the sea had her way, stole my heart one bright shining day, Tis to the sea I shall always be after,

Aye, my sea legs come briskly, prefer grog rum over whiskey, I shall splice upon the main brace beholding;
Every voyage fondly recalled, every port large and small, women beckoning- At my late return, oh so lovingly scolded!
The blood coursing my veins tis blue, I sing along with this ships creaking tune, My course set by the sun, the stars and the moon.
In battle I fight dirty, blind merciless anger overwhelms me, My savior is my cutlass, honed sharp- slicing true,
Aye Young Aden McGee, pass that rum jug back to me, pulling a cork in my favor- Son of Poseidon and Acionna, I’m a cyclone times two.”

“I was quite blessed a young lad, 12 doting mothers, 16 siblings I had, I was the youngest pimp in the city;
But I’d fetch them on back, to where love was cheap, an extravagant act- Not a one was even a little bit pretty!
It was my lot, I accepted, someday I knew I’d escape, get connected, To a life blessed with promise and future.
But, I fell in with a bad crowd, when my virtue left- it was quite loud, I had then found my first love and my passion.
I trade in munitions and arms, cannons and rifles, pistols black charms, As for silence I was sounds paid assassin.
I survived all my fun, blew a hell of a lot of men to God’s Kingdom Come- Truth be told I belly whiskey better than rum.
Mr. Burr I say Sir, my loyalty, my skills be hereafter honorable and true, Quite the opposite, of all I have before now become.”

One hundred 8 days over the ocean, officers and crew nary a clue, fancied notion, Of the battle that would soon alter their future,

Two large ships sail abreast, Captain’s orders: heave to smartly, upon the next crest, Or we shall fragment your rig, opening wounds can’t be sutured.
Arresting a privateer at sea, belay your cannons, lay down your arms, let mercy be, Against ruthless pirates, mercenaries, aye, merchants of anguish.
Cutlasses boldly drawn, cannons roared, grape shot splintered blasted bones Hell and gone, Combat at sea: bright hot red-smoky, loud blood curdling screams.
A jibe and a tack, alongside, another attack, reloaded cannons rain death to the deck, Upon lazy halyards the angry crews quickly ascended,
Swinging over the enemy’s deck, slashing arms, parting an opportune bearded neck, Tis only the hardest man offers a handful of whiskers!
A battle quick and abrupt, claimed guiltless and overtly corrupt, equal are all to the sea, Tis her burden, deep water justice, sponsored by Trincomalee

Alas amid the struggle for life, parting of flesh, vivid cleaving stains red the knife, Men fiercely fight, blood runs awash oaken planks,
The tale its sad song recounted the fight, survived by the witnesses observing the sight, Of two fearless men who traversed a great rapture,
Each against three, they set opponent souls free, last line of defense for Trincomalee, Young Aden dispensing his pistols black charms,
A fortified crew, fed the rapscallions much more than they could possibly chew, Black thick smoke filled the now still morning air,
When haze and brume lifted, through dead and splintered wood the crew sifted, Comrades two lay side aside mortally wounded,
“Mr. Burr I contest, you give your life, gave your best, I am proud to have battled beside you,” His last words fading, edged trailing, with tribulation.
“Young Aden McGee, friend now forever free, fear not, you have fought splendidly nearby me,” Admiration tenor esprit, deep regards, profound as the sea.

It tis the mid-watch at night, where men’s hearts agonize long for the sight, Family and friends gathered at the dock on the bay,
Salt crusted men pace the rail, tip their caps dip the pail, scrubbing decks prior to arrival, Family love being a crucial key for their survival.
Upon a dark open sea, each recalls a face, a last touch, a hushed mournful plea, Davy Jones opens his locker yet twice more,
By light of the moon, a ships creaky old tune, men sing shanties livened with grog, As music drives away the sadness of deaths fog,
Helmsman steer an orderly course, captains weathered old charts, an unheeded source, Away from our mistresses the great oceans beyond,
They longed to be free, boldly drawn towards the sea, with the tide silently creeping aground, Buried in deep, silent fathoms, a cold devoid, proving ground.
The tide pulls with a yearning, keep red on starboard returning, ready the mooring lines all, Alas, home from the sea, Her Majesty’s Ship, Trincomalee.

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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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The Pressing

The Pressing prose poem

“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