Gesture

2 February 2001

Fletcher’s juggling Bligh’s shrewd attention with bayonet, cutlass, maps, musket & pistol,
a stance crying out for halcyon poise. Collar open, hair loose, lapsing into
Pidgin, he could be a C20th film hero, even sports the unshaven scoundrel look
suitable for a South Pacific dawn scene, except for the wild eyes, maddened
beyond any good-looking actor’s range. Now observe Bligh from behind. See the
nightshirt below his chafing bound wrists? Ignore the turmoil, the shouted
commands, snarled counters, fuckwitted suggestions, those varied accents echoing off
the water. In the launch out of the launch, too crowded, factions forming, splintering.
The pirates need that one, this one weeps, gunwales wobbling & dipping so low they
touch the ocean’s silver light. Lloyd’s would never underwrite this lot’s cruise
despite Fletcher slipping them his sextant. Bligh’s puffing up for his grandstand
speech, the one about justice & England. See that sailor standing next to him, the
short one scarred by smallpox & tattoos? Tom Burkitt in one of history’s walk-on
parts, moved by modesty or sense of decorum or perhaps humiliation overkill; watch
him tug down the ruched nightshirt, cover his captain’s bare white bum. Later, Tom
might rue that moment, just before the wind blows out the sun & the rope crushes his
ignorant neck as the waiting cannon recoils.

 


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