Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Salt from a Dead Woman's Table"

This poem came from the April 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from the_vulture, my_partner_doug, kelkyag, siege, and rix_scaedu.  I managed to fit in all  of the requested pirate references, and then added technology and aerial location based on other input.  This is a ballad, written in the style of sea chanteys and traditional ballads; it has a very strong backbeat and would play nicely on a drum with some extra riffs.  If you look at the chorus, you'll see a collection of ordinary items empowered by circumstance -- that's a common folk magic motif and it appears quite often in pirate lore particularly.  Oh, and Mary is named after Mary Read, one of my favorite female pirates.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth.  (The chorus is only counted once, so the price applies to the number of unique  lines in the poem.)  There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. A ballad has 4 lines per verse, so each verse costs $2, if you want to fund a certain number of verses. 

So far sponsors include: the_vulture, janetmiles, general fund, durconnell

124 lines, Buy It Now = $62
Amount donated = $56
Verses posted =   28 of 31

Amount remaining to fund fully = $6
Amount needed to fund next verse = $2
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2

Note: catsittingstill has composed a tune, and also a condensed version of the lyrics.  Yay!  Yay!  Listen to the MP3.  I found the performance hauntingly beautiful.  Her post about it also contains lyrics to some of her own songs.


Salt from a Dead Woman's Table
-- a ballad


Mary came home from the market
Found all her family slain
Mother and brother and father
Slaughtered for somebody's gain.

Weeping she mourned for her losses,
Buried them all in the ground,
Dressed in her father's spare clothing,
Then walked away harbor-bound.

Four things she took on her journey,
Four grim reminders of home,
Four keys to seeking her vengeance,
Though all the sky she must roam:

     Salt from a dead woman's table
     Dust from a dead infant's grave
     Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
     Tears for what she couldn't save

Mary took her father's skyship
Cloudsilk and riggings galore,
Whipped up the crew into shipshape,
Headed away from the shore.

Tavern to tavern they traveled
Seeking for word of the foe
Who dared to kill Mary's people ...
Surely, somebody must know.

Brawling and fighting a-plenty,
Wenches and rum flowing free;
These things they'd no trouble finding
Whether in sky or asea.

     Salt from a dead woman's table
     Dust from a dead infant's grave
     Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
     Tears for what she couldn't save

Treasures they heard of while flying,
Chests full of diamonds and gold.
Mary had only one interest;
It wasn't wealth in the hold.

Then someone mentioned a treasure
That finally turned Mary's head --
Not made of riches but knowledge
To leave an enemy dead.

Parchment maps crinkled in starlight;
Cloud-islands faded behind.
Mary at last sought a treasure
Worth any trouble to find.

     Salt from a dead woman's table
     Dust from a dead infant's grave
     Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
     Tears for what she couldn't save


Slicing their way through the rigging
Pirates fought hard for their hoard;
Mary cut her path right through them,
Slashing with dagger and sword.

Over the railing she tossed them,
Cruel men abandoned to die.
Swirling like leaves in the autumn,
Screaming they fell through the sky.

Turning the pages she found them --
Patterns, instructions, her prize --
Yet triumph left her heart hollow,
Sorrow still filling her eyes.

     Salt from a dead woman's table
     Dust from a dead infant's grave
     Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
     Tears for what she couldn't save


Then, like a rumor, she heard it:
First just a whisper -- a name --
Someone knew who slew her people.
Mary's heart burst into flame.

Hunting, she stalked through the harbors;
Hunting, she sailed through the skies.
Hunting by sunlight and moonlight,
Mary drew truth out of lies.

Greenwing the Pirate -- she knew him --
Nemesis named now and sworn.
Mary would be the death of him,
Sure as she ever was born.

     Salt from a dead woman's table
     Dust from a dead infant's grave
     Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
     Tears for what she couldn't save


Down like a deathwind come sailing
Her ship struck out of the moon,
Raking his decks with her fire
Fierce as a summer typhoon.

Gears on her cannons were gleaming,
Sharp as a shark's fatal grin;
Mary's crew dialed the numbers
And shoveled the cannonballs in.

This was the treasure she fought for --
Weapons to daunt even God --
Shattering Greenwing's sky-galleon
To splinters that rained on the sod.

Salt from a dead woman's table
Dust from a dead infant's grave
Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
Tears for what she couldn't save

Greenwing jumped over the railing,
Facing her on her own ship.
Seeing a woman before him,
Scorn curled the pirate's cold lip.

"You are no match for me, darling!"
Greenwing cried out as they fought.
"What would you have of me, woman,
Out of this blunder you've wrought?"

"Justice for my father murdered,
Mother, and brother, and me --
Damn you for all that you've taken,
Cast down like stones in the sea!"

Salt from a dead woman's table
Dust from a dead infant's grave
Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
Tears for what she couldn't save

Greenwing the Pirate laughed at her.
"Justice is no threat, my dear
Keep gabbing on if you want to --
I've been damned many a year."

Sword blows they traded with fury,
Both their white shirts running red.
Once again Mary cursed Greenwing;
Once again he laughed and said:

"I have been cursed by the Devil
Not to die by beast nor man.
Many have tried; none have killed me.
How do you think that you can?"

Salt from a dead woman's table
Dust from a dead infant's grave
Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
Tears for what she couldn't save

Greenwing caught her by the sashes,
Forcing his mouth down on hers.
"Kitten may spit when she meets me,"
He said, "but after, she purrs."

Then Mary drew out a pistol
Loaded with salt, dust, and lead.
Weeping she aimed at the pirate,
Shooting him right through the head.

Sulphur and brimstone engulfed him,
Burning his flesh as he fell.
Mary shoved him off her skyship;
He screamed the whole way to Hell.

Salt from a dead woman's table
Dust from a dead infant's grave
Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
Tears for what she couldn't save

Mary brought honor to pirates
All up the skylanes and down;
They offered her wealth and power
But she would not take their crown.

She guarded freedom and families
With weapons savage and grim
Much like her father before her ...
Just a bit fiercer than him.

She never married nor settled,
And people wondered what for.
Sometimes the young sailors asked her,
"Captain, what grieves you so sore?"

Salt from a dead woman's table
Dust from a dead infant's grave
Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
Tears for what she couldn't save

Salt from a dead woman's table
Dust from a dead infant's grave
Charge from a dead pirate's pistol
Tears for what she couldn't save


Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing
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