David Lewis Paget

(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Storm & the Tall-Ship Pier


They call it the Tall-Ship Pier, because
It hasn’t been used since then,
Its timbers rotted and barnacled,
And black since I don’t know when.
The storms it’s weathered have taken some,
You can’t reach it from the beach,
A hundred yards of its length have gone
The rest is stark at the breach.

But nobody goes there anymore
There’s not much left of the town,
Just a couple of old stone walls
The rest is tumbling down,
It sits forever beyond the Point
Where the sailing ships came in,
A crumbling wreck of years gone by
With a hint of forgotten sin.

The winter storms were a testing time,
The seas flooded over the pier,
The ships sat out in the bay, in line
Rode out, this time of the year,
Til when a black-hulled barquentine
Came in with a Dutch command,
The Captain, Herman van der Brouw
In charge of the ‘Amsterdam’.

They tied her up to the bollards, just
As a storm was coming in,
A woman stood on the quarter-deck
And the lines in her face were grim:
‘You said we’d head to Jakarta,
Not to this god-forsaken place! ’
‘I told you, stay in your cabin, ’
Was the reply, with little grace.

The Captain turned to the bosun,
‘Make her secure, but down below,
She’s not to come on the deck again
While still in the port, you know! ’
The woman struggled, was taken down
But she flung a curse at his head,
‘Your time is limited, van der Brouw,
When Dirk finds out, you’re dead! ’

The wind blew up and the storm came in
And the sea began to swell,
The sky was black and the ‘Amsterdam’
Would grind as it rose and fell,
It tore the bollard away from the pier
At the stern end of the barque,
Then slowly swung from the prow out wide
Side-on to the waves, an arc.

It kept on swinging around until
It crashed right into the pier,
Taking a section out with all
The cabins, back at the rear,
The wind was howling around the bow
As the barque sank low at the stern,
A voice screamed, ‘Get me the hell from here,
Or van der Brouw, you’ll burn! ’

The crew were swept off the quarter deck
Were drowned right there to a man,
While van der Brouw had leapt to the pier,
The part that continued to stand,
The woman rose to the surface for
One moment more in the storm,
And screamed from the top of a breaking wave,
‘You’ll wish you’d never been born! ’

They found him lashed to the planking
After a day or so of dread,
His eyes were staring, his face was white
He was just as surely dead,
But something curious came to pass
As they took his corpse ashore
The flesh on his hands was burned and black
With his fingers shaped like a claw.

And she, her body was swept on out
For she’s not been found ‘til now,
And all that’s left of the sailing ship
Is the figure, set on the prow,
A woman, carved as a figurehead
That creaks and groans in a storm,
And seems to mutter against the pier,
‘You’ll wish you’d never been born! ’

3 November 2013

Submitted: Saturday, November 02, 2013

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