Monday, April 20, 2009


This week's prompt is: one word


There is no glamour
in piracy
these days
one must pawn
to secure a dented dinghy
portage for miles
the lifeless thing
across rusty terrain finally
at a tired inlet
wrestle your way
double fisted kelp
soundlessly dip oars
into waters
you have fished
with your father’s nets
scramble up long ladders
of important ships
a far cry
from Anne Bonny

Fully advised of
occupational hazards
too numerous to name
wouldn’t anyone
in their right mind
cold call for a front office job
or sulk in a dusty lot
at daybreak
waiting for the tomato truck
to come?

If you would like some background on what inspired this poem, please read the summary below.

You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without being inundated by stories of pirates.

Dinghies niggling the bows of behemoth craft? Random unprovoked attacks? It all seemed so illogical and incongruous. What would drive anyone to commit such desperate acts? I began looking for answers. The story is much more complicated than the news reports suggest.

This chapter of piracy began 18 years ago as a group of fishermen banded together to protect their livelihood and their habitat. They called themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia and they were acting in absence of a viable government that could intercede on their behalf. They were met with pots of boiling water and bullets. As we know, the conflict has escalated and now a vast armada of navies is converging off shore to fight what is being described as one of the great menaces of our times.

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed as a result of protracted civil war, drought and a proxy war waged by Ethiopia. Its nine million people have been teetering on the edge of starvation ever since.

With the destabilization of the region, mysterious ships started to materialize off the coast of Somalia, one of the richest fishing zones in the world. Illegal trawlers continue to trespass the 12 mile inshore artisanal fishing waters, encroaching on local fishing grounds. They come from the European Union, Russia, Japan, India, Egypt and Yemen where marine life has been depleted by overexploitation. They take over $450 million in fish value out of Somalia annually without compensating local fishermen, paying tax or respecting environmental statutes (established international standards for regulated fishing.)

These countries have also made deals with local war lords and the Italian mafia to dump barrels of industrial and nuclear waste into the waters. After the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of leaking barrels washed up on the shore. The local coastal population began to suffer strange rashes, nausea, birth defects and many have died of radiation related diseases.

Appeals to the UN to protect Somalia’s sovereignty have repeatedly been thwarted by well entrenched and powerful interests.

Piracy is defined as “a war-like act committed by a nonstate actor, especially robbery or criminal violence committed at sea, on a river, or sometimes on shore, either from a vessel flying no national flag, or one flying a national flag but without authorization from a national authority.”

So technically, the big boats are not committing piracy. But they are in clear violation of international law.

None of this makes hostage taking justifiable. But it does give context to recent events.


SandyCarlson said...

Interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

Amias said...

The news never tell the full story ... and it's sad when poor people are forced to do drastic things ... it's always a no win when big business comes up against poor folk. Big business wins every time, because they can their country military.

I am sorry about the hostage taken, this made it worst for the poor folks.

Thank you for sharing this.

Tumblewords: said...

Indeed it does. You've told this story very well!

Jeeves said...

Thanks for sharing

the walking man said...

If we take care of the need to hijack shipping then we will have solved the piracy problem...but seeing as how those needs are fostered by some in the developed world using Somalia as their own dumping ground for the things they don't want on their shores...I suppose that the west will find it easier to kill pirates than correct their own illegality.

spacedlaw said...

I do believe Ann Bonny is only glamorous now because history has gone by with a little glitter.
The word needed to rob.
The word needed to survive.
And sometimes not even that.

anthonynorth said...

An excellent piece. You told it well.

qualcosa di bello said...

interesting thoughts that from my cozy armchair sound logical...but i wonder if i lived as some must how i would feel. your words have really made me think about this

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have heard this. Your poem rings true.

Kilauea Poetry said...

I enjoyed this very much and appreciate the balance on this whole thing. If you ask me, the U.N. is simply useless. Great job-

Deborah Godin said...

Sounds like lose/lose to me, and another item on an ever-growing list of ways we are misusing the earth and each other...

zoya gautam said...

"the U.N. is simply useless"-
-very thoughtfully written..thanks for sharing this..

Raven said...

Thank you for the history lesson and the beautiful poem.

barb said...

I must confess to not watching much "news" as it is all much to negative for my taste. I have of course heard of the pirates and hostage and subsequent rescue in recent events.

barb said...

I forgot to mention that I have moved to wordpress. You can find me there for next week's OSI.

Barb, aka WillThink4Wine.

Beth P. said...

Amen, sister.
There's always more than meets our eyes. Thank you for this--yet another take on how what we accuse others of is almost always what we are guilty of!

Thanks--beautiful poem.

floreta said...

thanks for the information. and loved the poem!

lissa said...

I am reminded of the movie, "amazing grace though that was about slave trade but your poem makes an interesting point, comparing fishing with one's father and piracy

it's is devastating to know such things still exist

gabrielle said...

I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to visit. I know this is not an easy topic. It was not easy to write about, but the story insisted on being told. Thank you for your care and for your thoughtful comments. It is truly a joy to be a part of this writing community.