Anne Bonny walks out to sea
The salted air no longer stings my cheeks,
just as a skilled carpenter never splinters wood.
This path pushes out, sanded smooth; I reel along
it to the shoreline, away from honest, lawful
men who trade another’s neck for silver. I decide
to chance my own for waves, fitted with a mermaid’s
tail – trousers hide my landlegs, curls knotted
behind my back, tucked under my hat. I would swing
before I let Jack down, drown before my debt is settled.
If only he brought fire from our bed to steam the water’s
edge. He lacks ambition. But he loves me for the way I hold
a gun, the knife wiped clean of blood on my white shirt.
*Anne Bonny was a female pirate of the early 18th century, known for her fierce and violent nature, especially in comparison with her husband.
Calico Jack on the scaffold
A man is much more than the fabric
of his breeches, the cut of his coat –
when boats give up their haul
without a pistol shot
those who gather now to see me hang
cheer on with spite alone, jealous
of the everflowing drink, the crossed
swords of my colours. We always
had plenty, and I’ve no taste for murder,
but I’ll miss the sugared rum upon my tongue.
*Pirate captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, common-law husband of Anne Bonny, nicknamed for his clothing and known for being a gentlemanly pirate.
for Gráinne Ní Mháille
The gossips claim there’s power
in her long red locks,
but she wants to swing a sword
and feel the earth roll away beneath her feet.
‘You’ll meet your death, girl,’ her father
says, ‘those waves of hair will catch
in the wheel, in the rigging, and break
your sweet pale neck.’ But there’s no fear
in her, our saving grace. She pulls the knife
from its place beneath her cloaks,
drags it across the plaited red gold
and meets her fate above the coastal
rocks as she drops dead scarlet rope
into the sea: she is less of a girl.
She will become our Queen.
*Grace O’Malley, the Irish ‘Pirate Queen’ of the 16th century
Kate Garrett writes poetry and flash fiction, and edits other people’s poetry and flash fiction. She is the founding editor of the folklore, fairytales, and mythology webzine three drops from a cauldron, and a senior editor at Pankhearst. Her work appears here and there, online and in print. She is the author of three small books, and is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. In real life she lives in Sheffield, England with her children, a cat, and a folk-musician-poet, and on the web she lives here: www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk.