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Thanksgiving Feast For Man And Beast

My black-as-night kitten
With one white mitten
Is called Paw.
He has become
A favourite of the ships
That pass my Lighthouse.
So
I was not totally surprised
When an outgoing schooner
Hove to, and a row boat came
To my dock, to bring me
My Thanksgiving dinner.
The Masters of the Port
Are very good this way,
To me,
For all holidays.
And in my basket of
Food (and – yes – wine),
Was a fancy small pot
For Paw.
Exactly the same as Mine.
Except
With the addition of
A gingham bag
Of catnip.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2021 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

DE BA. UEL

Making Way For Lighthouse Provisions Of Food

Fall Fairs
Bring fair foods.
At good fares.


And the provision boat
Comes next weekend


So
I must
Finish off what I have
This week.


A feast of hardtack
And beans
And a roast of pork
Still embedded
In the ice.


And moldy cheese
With the mold
Scraped off.


And a big cauldron
Stew
From those bits and bites
And pieces
That are not
Precisely
Identifiable.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2021 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

DE BA. UEL

All Work, And Maggots, Too, Cause Havoc On The Tossing Blue

Has no one before


Watered the floor


With the tears of


The poor

Sailorman?

Months out at sea


Is no place to be


No loved ones in sight


And to never feel free.


Alas!

The seas are oft rough


The boatswain is tough


The work never ends


And it’s never enough.


Drat!

The days yawn into fog


And the doldrums do bog


And create such an itch


Not relieved by the grog.


Hic!


So, any port from the foam


It doesn’t have to be home


Just some food that tastes real


Without maggots that roam.


Sigh!

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2021 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

DE BA. UEL

A Hurricane At Sea Brings Ships To Port

They are a raggle taggle

Fleet of vessels.

Not of the same fleet

Of course,

But members of that fleet

Of vessels

That got caught in

The hurricane at sea.

Which only brought me,

Winds and moderate rain

In my lighthouse

On Partridge Island.

So they limp in,

On this Friday

Day and night,

With no thought of

Beer and food and women

And glorious debauchery,

But rather of sleep

And care

And comfort, that

Is other than carnal.

And to have no

Fear of instant Death,

From one heaving minute

To the next.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2021 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

DE BA. UEL

Razzle Dazzle, Oh Mighty Monarch of the Sky

{I’m The Lighthouse 

Poet Laureate of Partridge Island

1821 – 2021

A lot of stuff have I seen

A lot of stuff to report}

I opened the door

At the bottom of 

My spiral staircase

Twisting

Beside the wall

Just white-washed

In the Spring.


And


Oh! And!!

Came out into 

A sea

A forest

A  cacophony

Of orange

And black

And white-spotted

Brilliant-winged

MONARCH butterflies.


They covered the edifice

From Light

To Entrance steps,

Soaking up


The heat

Of the stones.


I grabbed my trusty

Bum-worn

Wooden chair

And moved it

Distant enough

To watch the

Whole structure at once.


I’m still sitting.


~ DE BA, UEL.

Fog Shrouds Hides Protects The Ocean And The Island

{I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2021/ A lot of stuff have I seen/A lot of stuff to report}

I see three ships

Saw three ships

see/saw

sea/saw

Come sailing in

Come sailing in

Though I didn’t (really)

Because of the fog.

Partridge Island fog

Saint John Town fog

Hides everything

It damn well wants to

Christmas Day 

Or not.

~ DE BA UEL

The Cat Lady And The Seal

Well, she was dressed like a cat though, I realise as I write the sentence, how really does a cat dress?

Really, the only dress-up cat that comes to mind was a cat called Tuxedo, who was – I assume – so named because of his attire of black and white fur – right down (or up) to his bow tie. And, I remember him because he ran in every civic election for years, and always garnered 500 -700 votes. He lived a few blocks from me and always had his lawn signs out. Yeah, he probably had a human manager – but still.

But I digress.

The cat lady, it is true, had an exceedingly colourful set of clothes, with a frilly shirt and what looked like a square dance dress. I didn’t note if there were dancing shoes. I was down on the harbour, sitting on my favourite bench, looking out to sea. Summer is picking up and there were many, many other folk walking and taking in the view. So, it wasn’t really her garb that meowed “cat”, but the fact the had her face painted up as a cat, with accented eyes and tufts of fur and a set of cat ears. It’s summer, and there are lots of entertainments on the harbour, and it is possible she was part of some CATS revue that was giving entertainment for the masses. (or that could just be me, trying to make sense of it all).

However, she broke the tranquil evening by starting to yell.

“WHAT’S THAT?

“WHAT’S THAT?

“OVER THERE!

“IN THE WATER

“IS IT A SEAL!?!”

She was becoming so excited and agitated that I finally yelled back:

“YES, IT’S A SEAL”

“I’VE NEVER SEEN A SEAL. EVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE. ARE YOU SURE?’

“YES!”

Yes, I was sure. I had already been watching the animal, and it was putting on a good display. Not many seals venture so far into the harbour, and when they do they are usually above the water less than a minute before they dive to come up somewhere else. This seal was swimming tranquilly along, in nearly a straight line, for longer than a minute at a time. Perhaps basking in the sun. Or watching the people, so he would have tall tale to tell to his friends.

“A REAL SEAL?”

“YES.”

“I NEVER SAW ONE BEFORE.”

And with that she walked away, the sight, apparently, not being as earth-shattering as her voice.

Onions And Eggs Feed A Crew On A Sailing Ship To China

Excerpt from the novel “China Lily”

In 1293,  Cepa  and Matzerath  were part of the crew of The Pegasus, a ship that had sailed from Italy to China on a trading mission. After a couple of months, they arrived in the port of Zaitun,  where they encountered a local trader, Lu-Hsing.

Lu-Hsing takes the two men to a communal dining hall. This is part of their meal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Compared to others of his experience, the crew of The Pegasus appears content with their lot. They are certainly fitting in well in the dining hall, and even mingling with other diners. Thanks to the Captain’s instructions, they are willing to try any of the dishes they encounter, though it helps that they are ignorant of many of the ingredients.

“You want something other than onions?” Lu-Hsing jabs Cepa in the ribs with his shoulder.

“I want something with my onions.”

“You’ve been looking intently at everything.” Lu-Hsing opens his arms expansively. “What do you wish?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Look at me.” Lu-Hsing rubs his belly with a roar. “I am not a picky eater. I’ll suggest anything.”

“You’ve already warned me away from soup.”

“Not warned.” Lu Hsing points back to the bubbling soup they had been looking at. “You can add a lot to soup and make a stew.” He grimaces. “But you still slurp more than you chew. Lu-Hsing wants to use his teeth when he eats.”

“We can stay away from soup.” Cepa smiles. “And I’d just as soon avoid fish.”

“Me, too.” Matzerath puts his hands up in surrender. “We eat enough salted fish to swim.”

“You boys are in the Port of Zaitun.” Lu-Hsing speaks in an authoritative tone. “Fish a specialty.”

“There must be something else.” Matzerath points. “Look at all the cooks.”

“No soup?”

“Pah!”

“Trouble-making Round Eyes.” Lu-Hsing points to a wok near the end of the aisle and starts to walk. “We’ll try there.”

“What does he have?” Cepa falls into step behind Lu-Hsing, followed by Matzerath.

“Oyster omelette.”

“Eggs?” asks Matzerath.

“As many as you want.”

“That will take a big pan.”

“He can use a high-sided wok.” Lu-Hsing pretends to whisk something in a wok. “Plop it right onto a plate.”

“We don’t have dishes.” Cepa suddenly realizes the fact. “We haven’t been back to The Pegasus all day.”

“Lu-Hsing share you his.” He barks an order at the cook, and then turns back to Cepa. “Stay right here. I’ll get them from my table.”

Cepa and Matzerath stand and watch the cook. Cepa notes he is using wood and not the black rocks for his fire. Some oil is dropped onto the metal and immediately sizzles. The cook holds up his hand and extends his fingers; one, two, three, four, five.

“Will you want some?”

“God – yes.” Matzerath nods.

Cepa holds up five fingers and the cook grins. He takes an egg in each hand and hits them together. The upper shell is flipped off and they pour into the wok. He repeats the gesture and the eggs land on top of the others. The last egg is dispatched on the metal rim of the wok and added to the rest before a hint of cooking has begun. The cook then begins to whisk and slide the eggs along the side of the wok before Matzerath has time to make a comment.

“I’d like to see you do that on The Pegasus,” says Cepa.

“I break eggs all the time.”

“I know.” Cepa laughs. And we eat the shells to prove it.”

The cook now twists and shakes the wok by its two handles over the fire. The eggs slide up and along the sides, and then settle more thickly near the bottom. With a grin and a twist of his hands, the cook turns the wok right over. The eggs start to slide out with a couple of drops hissing into the fire. Matzerath’s mouth falls open as the cook rights the wok so quickly that the eggs drop right back into it, now cooking on the other side. The cook puts the wok back on the fire.

“Bet you can’t do that,” says Cepa.

“Just once.” Matzerath laughs. “But the whole ship was heaving at the time.”

The cook begins to nudge the eggs together with a spatula. With his other hand he sprinkles a few drops of brown liquid. Then he adds some coarsely chopped shoots of a green onion.

“Hah!” Matzerath slaps Cepa on the shoulder.

After a quick swirl of these ingredients the cook plops in a bowl of small oysters. He takes his time with these, spacing them with deliberation over the quickly cooking eggs. Then – with a flourish – he scoops up a handful of flower blossoms and sprinkles them over the whole bubbling mixture.

“What are those?” Matzerath peers into the wok.

“Chrysanthemums.”

“We’re eating flowers?’

“When in Rome …”

The cook adds a further dash of the brown liquid and then folds the eggs neatly in half. He flips the whole omelette to the center of the wok and sprinkles a palm full of spring onion – this time finely chopped – over of the still-bubbling omelette. He presses the onion in place with his spatula then removes the wok from the fire.

“Timing is everything.”

The voice startles them both. They turn to see Lu-Hsing standing behind them, holding a large platter. He barks instructions to the cook, speaking too quickly for the two men to understand.

“Stick to ribs – make you happy.”

The cook divides the omelette in half and slides it onto the platter. He then takes the wicker top off a steamer and starts to add heaping ladles of red rice along the sides of the platter.

“What’s that?” Matzerath sounds suspicious.

Hong qu mi.”

“You can see its rice,” hisses Cepa.

“But it’s red.”

“Fermented with yeast.” Lu-Hsing scoops some into his palm and eats it. “Looks good. Tastes great.”

“Aren’t you having a meal?”

“Lu-Hsing eats later – with family.” He moves his hand over the top of the platter and inhales the aroma. “We eat at home – wife is a great cook.”

“I thought you’d be joining us.” Matzerath is clearly disappointed.

“Too crowded. Too smoky.” Lu-Hsing laughs. “Just the place for Round-eyes who want to make contacts. I already know people.”

Lu-Hsing abruptly steps behind the counter and stands beside the cook. He takes a look into the bubbling pots and lifts the tops off of steamers. He finally points with a barrage of Chinese. The cook gets two porcelain bowls and ladles a heaping amount of food into each.

“Got your spoon?” asks Cepa.

Matzerath takes a spoon from his pant’s pocket and holds it up.

“You?”

“Yes.” Cepa has his spoon on a chain around his neck. He takes it out from underneath his shirt and lets it dangle against his chest.

“You boys prepared – good.” Lu-Hsing takes the platter with the omelette and rice. He then points with his chin. “Take your bowls and follow me.”

Matzerath anxiously sees the platter of steaming food being taken away. He nudges Cepa and they again get into step behind Lu-Hsing, who again clears a path through the crowded eating hall. They approach a raised platform under a row of windows, much like the noble’s section in the Cannara’s own tavern. It is still a crowded space, with ten tables set not far apart from each other. Half are vacant, so Cepa can’t tell if Lu-Hsing heads for his ‘own’ table, or has the use of any that is available. He places the platter crosswise near one end of the table.

“You need drink.” Lu-Hsing unrolls a half dozen chopsticks from a cotton napkin, so they lay beside the platter. “Tea or rice wine?”

“Dear God – wine!” Matzerath plunks his bowl on the table. “It’s been a day.”

“Bring both, please.” Cepa sits across the table from Matzerath. “For both of us.”

“Tea is for thirst.” Matzerath takes his spoon from his pocket. “I want drink for more than that.”

“We can’t have you getting drunk.” Cepa lifts his own spoon from around his neck. “Even the crew has orders not to get drunk.”

You are sticking to tea?” Matzerath begins to wield his chopsticks over the rice.

“No.” Cepa laughs. “Although I am also thirsty, I have no objection to feeling ‘mellow’ as I eat.”

“And it will help you sleep.” Lu-Hsing slaps Cepa on the back. “Like mother’s milk.”

“I wish my mother had had tits of wine.” Matzerath wipes some rice from his chin and sucks his fingers. “I would have been a better child.”

Slip Sliding Away – Not The Dock On The Bay

Since it had nothing to do with my childhood, upbringing, or my university days, I have no idea why I am now so enamoured by harbours, ports and the ocean. I’ve lived within a half day of them all my life, yet never yearned – let alone took advantage – to visit.


At the end of my second year of university I flew over the ocean to work on a farm in Germany – a student exchange.  I was near the port of Hamburg, where I both visited and took boat tours. I worked on a farm that was nearly on the banks of the Elbe river, which flowed into the North Sea. Canals on the farmland rose and fell with the tide.


I crossed the English Channel twice (one way in a storm so bad it made the crew sick – as it did to me).


So, perhaps with this sea and port exposure, I became enthralled with harbours and the ocean. I crave fishing villages with their small ports, and have visited many. I currently live in one of the largest harbours in the world.


Over the decades I have visited and lived in Halifax, I have walked the waterfront hundreds of times. I never tire of it.  I have written four novels where harbour and ocean play a significant part – more than just as a setting.


Decades ago, when I was just visiting Halifax, there was an anomaly on the harbour. At the very edge of where the tugboats were berthed, there was narrow slip. It looked as if it was not made on purpose, but was an erratic triangle of water  between a dock and a (at the time) jutting shoreline of rocks. Someone kept their small and narrow sailboat there. There was no signage, and I never knew if it was done legally. I never saw the boat come or go, but I often found the slip empty. This situation lasted for years, and although the sailboat was long gone, the slip itself only disappeared this year through massive changes to the shoreline.


However


At the other end of the harbour shore, where additional major changes are being made (a huge hotel, condos. restaurant, shops), between an established peer and the new construction, there is an anomaly. A narrow triangle of a slip, suitable for one solitary boat – if it is ever used.


Such a slip has now appeared in my current novel.

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