In Brittlemasque, the living go
nervous in twos or threes as though
the dead who much out number them
are waiting for a moment when
distracted by the pulse of blood
the living come to Deadman's Wood
or Slaughter Tow, or Breakspine Point
or the crossroads called 'Out of Joint'
where dislocated limbs a-twitch
disclose to travellers which way's which
from their place on the gibbet tree.
(There's one unclaimed, whose can it be?)
It is the place of Captain File
the pirate chief whose ways were vile
- you may recall the year before
his ship bombarded the near shore
which cost the lives of forty score,
and so disturbed the quick and dead
a price was fixed upon his head
which generous price quite quickly lead
on to that 'partial' resolution
inherent in an execution
of justice, which for Captain File
set for six months his widening smile
upon the tree at 'Out of Joint'
with arms so fixed as true to point
between the whirlpools and the deep
the ship-crack rocks and reefs so steep
that sailors skirt when its their task
to beach their ships at Brittlemasque.
In seven months it chanced the great
and mighty in a ship of state
came sailing home with pennants high
scarlet and gold athwart the sky.
The ship it carried the King's son,
a sprightly lad of twenty one
the heir to all the blackened trees
the craggy spires, the bitter breeze.
The living and the dead both bent
their heads as the ship by it went.
Save one which did not bend to sea
but grinning there upon the tree,
grinned as with crack of bone and wire
it's pointing arm crept ever higher.
And checking bearings by that arm,
the ship swept on to grievous harm.
And that is why from 'Out of Joint'
notorious pirates may not point,
but only cut-purses and those
who do not know the river's flows.