In May 2019, we spent three weeks in Sweden. While there we went on several boat trips in the Stockholm area and along the west coast. I took quite a bit of video footage with no particular project in mind. But when I returned home, it came together in this video A Captain’s… using audio samples recorded in an old windmill on the island of Ölund.
The text had been published a while back and uses an invented form of english that captures the sound and feel of old nautical terminology. It imagines a captain trying to justify his privileged, colonialist position, while facing the immense and unknown dangers of the ocean.
The title comes from Australian rhyming slang: “A Captain’s” = “A Captain Cook” = a look. Captain James Cook was the celebrated English explorer who claimed the eastern seaboard of Australia for the British Empire in 1770, almost totally ignoring its long-standing occupation by First Nations people.
The video has been screened in a few places around the world now:
• official selection, Filmysea International Film Festival (India, March, 2022);
• official selection, International Migration & Environmental Film Festival – Best of Shorts (USA, October, 2021);
• published in Verity La (April, 2021);
• official selection, Carmarthen Bay Film Festival (Wales, May, 2020);
• screened at Kino Klub Split: Blending Perspectives, powered by AGITATE:21C (Split, Croatia, December, 2019);
• text originally published as A Captain Cook in Transnational Literature 8.1 (2015).
Here is the text:
Here again, not well, likely a turnspit, jiggered,
seafowl aswoon, unfeathered on deck mahogany,
ocean smooth and tumultuous and heaving
all bilious, curmudgeonly, all at a time.
Underneath, fore, malodorous leviathan, rotten kraken stink;
aft, cod slime coating us double-breasted in doubloons.
Wheedle to side, we yearn dissolution, hard swizzle,
a canter from the mizzen mast.
So swing us a reel, old mate, breach your musket lead.
Till the sun breaks shackles, tasks late azimuth,
we’ll be run though midships with stringy bark,
shaggy punch, brindled spinny fig.
Elsewise, we hide mongst mouldering caulk,
wait dangle-tailed for planetary casts on cruise tide,
when glacial icefloes volcane our breath space,
pilfer our saddle-darned carpet bags.
Whose trajectory then scours my sleep, counterbreaks,
smites caterwauls across my log lines?
What worriment forths mildewed landsend,
unwashable bloodclot, blind apostrophe?
Along the whiles, powder my silk, sash my periwig;
stow flannel and serge, reft fishbone and lice.
Stay me my phlegm, boil this black ink regalia.
Curdlesome, I hove, penny pick my ultimatum.