Saturday, March 23, 2013

THE SPOT UPON THE SEA - by Margaret Muir

Beware of Novice Navigators
A nonsense poem written on a tall ship in the Indian Ocean when the trainee crew was challenged to navigate the ship to a location designated by the Captain.

There was panic on the poop deck when the word was passed around
that the motley crew was taking on the ship.
The Captain gave a shudder, there was little he could do.
His only goal was to survive the trip.

But the Junior Officers – the leaders of the Watch
didn’t wait for the disaster to unfold,
They jumped into the fizz boat that was lowered to the sea
and sped off in the darkness, it is told.

The bold Captain, in his wisdom said, “You can take this barquentine,
if you prove that you can sail her true and square.”
So he handed them a challenge to navigate the ship
to a Spot upon the ocean, was his dare.

Three novice navigators to the charthouse they did go.
Their aim to meet the challenge, ‘twas their choice.
They would chart a course for sailing to this Spot upon the sea.
“We will get you there,” they bellowed in one voice.

And the goal the Captain set them was 32 degrees of south
and a longitude – one-hundred-fourteen east.
If they followed that chart reference to the Spot upon the sea,
they would prove themselves true sailors, at the least.

“We will do it,” said the boldest. “I will guarantee you that
we will take you to this Spot upon the sea.
Thirty-two degrees south latitude is easy,” they agreed.
With one-one-four we’ll have you there for tea.”

And no sooner had he spoken, than he wrote it in the log
- one-hundred-fourteen latitude of west
And with compass and a ruler started drawing on the chart.
He really felt he had to do his best.

‘Twas a tiny little error led the barquentine off course.
To the west of the meridian they were bound
and with sixteen sails a-flying, they would seek that special Spot,
yet they didn’t know it wasn’t to be found.

The days were long and balmy and the winds were fresh and warm
and time slipped by and no one seemed to care,
The crew was quite contented playing deck games in the sun
or to lend a hand when it was time to wear.

With the tall ship’s course still charted to one-hundred-fourteen west,
they passed Good Hope and headed for Cape Horn.
And the crew, they were oblivious to what was going on
just completed cleaning stations every morn.

North west in the Pacific, was the course they had to take
to that thirty-two by one-one-four degrees,
And the navigators gleeful, started looking for that Spot,
their binoculars focused on the seas.

But that Spot upon the ocean they never did locate,
though they looked and looked and looked and looked in vain
Perhaps it floated off to Chile or it sank beneath the waves
for that Spot was never ever seen again.

And the legend of this barquentine is many times retold
how the ghostly ship still sails upon the sea
with her crew forever looking for that damned elusive Spot
and it’s told they’ll look for all Eternity.

THE SPOT UPON THE SEA is included in a short book of verse entitled: 'Words on a Crumpled Page' by Margaret Muir and available from

Images courtesy of BIGSTOCK photos


It always irks me that the contraband/proceeds of crime when captured by the authorities usually go up in smoke (literally). For me, to see tons of stolen elephant tusks burnt is a travesty. Ivory, is a highly valuable commodity and regulated sale by the authorities of this contraband could return some finance to the people of these often underdeveloped nations where it happens. After all, the poor elephants have paid with their lives.
In Australia, any food products which are seized from criminals are destroyed – for obvious health reasons, but in this case a judge declared that the meat – T-bones, rump steaks etc. could go to feed the Tassie Devils – native and endangered species of marsupial (that carries its young in a pouch) of Tasmania. After all, their diet in the wild is carrion (stinking and rotten dead animals).

Saturday, March 09, 2013

On the Shelf - ode to an oil rig

...on the Shelf

You come by night
sink into my waterbed
and listen for my sounds
my deep
my intimate.
You know my contours
and run your probing finger
through my sandy hair
– soft flowing – sensuous
explore my cavities
and meld in me
swaying the gentle rhythm
of the moon.

You come by night
to satisfy your need
And then move on
Leaving me empty

...on the Shelf - in case you didn't guess, is about an oil rig on the Continental Shelf.

This tongue-in-cheek verse will be included in WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE by Margaret Muir

Welcoming Spring


A downpour heralds her arrival
Frogs clear their throats, croaking in chorus
Bees hum busily
Battalions of new leaves
stand to attention in double file,
while blossoms cluster on bare branches
blushing at the unashamed antics of mating birds.

Spring rushes in
She’s late again
But no one seems to care.

From a segment on The Seasons in WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE due for publication my Margaret Muir

Ode to Trucking ...against the wind

Many years ago, I regularly drove the South West Highway in Australia. To break the boredom, I noted down hundreds of names that were displayed on the front of the big rigs.
This bit of nonsense is composed from some of those names – including the title ‘AGAINST THE WIND’.

... against the wind (Ode to Trucking)

Bitch Wheels, Barks ’n’ Bites
ex Northcliffe
Purring Log-hog, Pussy Torque,
Pussy Puller
Trailing Rubber
South-West Highway Carrion

Speed awakes the Senseless Ticking
Moonshine Gambler
Hot Tracks
Hot Stuff
White Stuff flowing
Rides the Fine Line
Cat from Hell

Basic Instinct
V8 Mongrel
Escapee on Roo-dog night
Prototype of Time Warp twisting
Purrr-fect Bitch – In Overdrive.

Post Script:
In November 2005, my partner, Peter Ryan, died in a head-on collision with one of those behemoths. Now is the time for me to move on.

‘…against the wind’ will be included in an eclectic collection of bits and pieces called, WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE by Margaret Muir.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The Witch's Dance - by Margaret Muir - a poem


Sweet female child
plucked from your mother’s swollen womb
before the tongues of searing flame
licked and devoured that pulsing
nursery of seed from which you came.

Sweet female child
transported on the tumbrel cart of life,
alight to sip the juice of maidenhood,
to dance upon the bosom of the earth,
that verdant mantle succoured by the ash.

Sweet female child
feet dipped in evening’s dew, you glide
swathed naked in a sea of liquid night,
twisting, rotating, turning, spinning fast,
invoke an aura, partner to your dance.

Sweet female child
with rainbow flames entwined
lapping your flesh in intimate embrace,
smooth swirling figures in cold fluid air
coloured in indigo, orange, violet, red.

Sweet female child
throughout the night you dance
till moonbeams shy from early morning’s glow
then to the arms of mother earth you fall,
wrapped in fine veils of misty rainbow hue.

Sweet female child
sleep safely in the ambience of dawn
warmed by your lover’s multicoloured cape,
and when he stirs, arise and greet the sun.
Sweet female child, it is your day – Dance on!

Margaret Muir
Copyright July 2001

This poem will be appearing in a collection of poetry titled: WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

ONE WAY TICKET - a short story

ONE WAY TICKET by Margaret Muir

Edith Selby smiled, as she touched the faces in the photograph album. Tiny mouths, half hidden behind clouds of pink fairy floss, smiled back at her.
Claire’s cup rattled, when she placed it on the saucer.
“Do be careful, dear,” Edith said.
“I’m trying, Gran, but it’s not easy.” She sighed. “I wish Steve were here.”
Edith closed the album.
“You know I don’t like a fuss, dear. Goodbyes are such silly things. Whenever your granddad and I went anywhere, we always liked to slip away quietly without telling anyone.”
Claire sniffed. “But I don’t want you to go.”
“I’m sorry, dear, my mind is made up. And I couldn’t let that nice young man down who make all the arrangements.”
“You could if you wanted,” said Claire adamantly, getting to her feet. “And besides, that nice young man is old enough to be my father.”
“Well, dear, when you get to my age, they all look young.”
Edith sipped her tea.
“You and Steve have been so good to me,” she said. “Letting me live here for the past six months. But the children are growing up so quickly and …..”
“And they love you,” said Claire.
“And I love them too,” sighed Edith. “But its time for me to go - and to be quite honest I will not miss the hot summers.”
Claire shook her head. “Oh, Gran!”
“Look, dear, you know my reasons. Maybe if your granddad was alive, things would be different.”
The phone rand, interrupting them.
Claire answered it.
“Hello! – No, she won’t change her mind.” She handed the phone to her grandmother. “It’s Mum,” she said.
Edith sat down, smiling into the telephone.
“Jennifer, how nice of you to ring again. No, don’t worry. Everything will be fine – that nice young man has assured me there will not be any problems.”
She listened.
“Not at all, dear, in fact I am getting quite excited. Remember to give my love to the boys.” She took a deep breath. “Goodbye dear. Goodbye.”
She held the received to her ear until the line went dead.
It was almost eleven.
“Isn’t it time we were going, dear?”
Claire nodded and reached for her bag and keys. After one final look around the room, Edith followed her granddaughter to the car.
* * *
It was almost midday when the four-wheel drive rolled to a stop in the car park. Tears were pouring down Claire’s cheeks “Gran, I will miss you so much.”
Edith squeezed her hand sympathetically.
“My little Claire,” she said. “You must remember, it is my life and I can decide what I want to do with it.”
A man appeared from the building and strolled across the tarmac to greet them.
“Look, dear,” said Edith. “It’s that nice young man.” She touched her hair. “How do I look?”
“You look fine,” said Claire, wiping her face.
“You don’t have to come in with me.”
“Yes, I do, Gran.”
“Alright, I suppose you do.”
Gordon Richie opened the passenger door.
“Good morning, Mrs. Selby,” he said, offering Edith his hand.
She smiled coyly. “You can call me, Edith.”
“Right on time, Edith,” he said.
“I don’t like to be late.” She paused and looked up. The sky was powder blue and cloudless save for the vapour trail from an aircraft. The sweet scent of gardenias drifted across the car park. Bees hummed around the waxy petals.
“Isn’t it a perfect day?” she said.
“It certainly is.” Gordon Richie waited patiently while Edith looked around.
“Now I’m ready,” she said.
“Are you sure?”
“Then will you allow me?” Gordon Richie said, offering her his arm and escorting her across the car park.
“Such a nice young man,” she said, as she glanced back.
Claire followed them into the building allowing the door to close quietly behind her.
At the entrance a new brass plaque glinted in the sun.
Engraved on it were the words:

Dr. Gordon Richie
Euthanasia Clinic
By appointment only

* * *

This is a condensed version of the short story which seems appropriate at a time when Tasmania, the Australian state in which I live, is pushing for legalization of voluntary euthanasia.
This story will appear in a collection of short pieces - both poetry and prose to be published shortly under the title - WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE
Pic: Morning mist over the Tamar Valley from my home in Northern Tasmania

Euthanasia in Tasmania

Tasmania leads way on voluntary euthanasia
The paper proposes a model for voluntary euthanasia based on laws already in place in Oregon, Washington State, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.
Voluntary assisted dying would only be available to Tasmanian residents with an advanced terminal illness who have given written and verbal consent and have been assessed by at least two doctors. The law would be subject to independent oversight. Based on international experience, it is estimated that Tasmania could expect as few as eight cases of voluntary assisted dying each year.
This proposal is likely to attract strong community support, and so the real challenge will lie in Tasmania's independent-dominated upper house. If the numbers are there, Tasmania will lead the nation on this issue. This would no doubt put pressure, as it should, on parliamentarians in other states to wake up and listen to the views of those that they represent.
Sydney Morning Herald – Feb 27, 2013 (Read more:

I support this proposal and, co-incidentally, am in the process of preparing some short pieces of writing which I have had tucked away for many years, and among them is a very short (and fairly light) story which addresses euthanasia.
Under the book title 'WORDS ON A CRUMPLED PAGE', I intend to include an eclectic mix of poetry, prose and trivia.
And because it topical in Tasmania, I will also reproduce the short story - 'ONE WAY TICKET' on my blog.
Image: Winter sky - Norhtern Tasmania

ADMIRALTY ORDERS - Work-in-progress

With the success of THE TAINTED PRIZE and FLOATING GOLD in e-book format, I have begun writing the next adventure in my nautical fiction series.
Having discarded one title because it appeared too many times in a Google search, I have titled my work-in-progress: ADMIRATLY ORDERS.
The series is headed: Under Admiralty Orders - The Oliver Quintrell Series, and in keeping with the first two books , Captain Quintrell picks up his orders from the Admiralty before joining his ship in Portsmouth and proceeding to sea.
In ADMIRALTY ORDERS, set in 1804, I have taken the liberty of hanging the fiction elements on a framework of actual historical events. But unlike Patrick O'Brian and CS Forester who are both guilty of manipulating events or substituting the participants in them, I prefer to adhere to the truth and report the battles merely from an observer’s standpoint.
There are certain events which were occurring in Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar in 1804 which are un-romantic and do not feature to any extent in any fiction books I have read.
Yet the facts surrounding these events are startling.
I hope my narrative will convey the enormity of the problems at that time and that this will make both enjoyable and interesting reading.
I hope to have the book completed for publication by the middle of the year.
As with the image for THE TAINTED PRIZE, this picture was taken during a recent visit to an old fortress in Portugal.
Other historical fiction books by Margaret Muir are available from Amazon.

Review - The Tainted Prize (Quarterdeck)

by M. C. Muir | $16.81, Trade Paperback
$2.99 Kindle Edition | 232 pages
IT IS 1803. After twelve months of peace under the Treaty of Amiens, England is once again at war with France. With virtually every post captain at sea, Captain Oliver Quintrell, late of the frigate Elusive, wonders why “he alone had been left on the beach” with the country threatened by a French invasion across the Channel.
In London, Quintrell seeks an audience with the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent. “Captain Quintrell, you come here in the hope you will receive a commission…you will not be disappointed,” says St Vincent. “His Majesty’s Frigate Perpetual awaits you in Gibraltar.”
Arriving at The Rock aboard the frigate Isle of Lewis, Quintrell receives sealed orders directing him to the Southern Ocean in search of the missing 28-gun frigate Compendium, which is carrying the new British Ambassador to Peru.
A port call in Madeira to water and collect firewood allows Oliver to find a brief respite in the arms of his lover, Susanna, before setting a course for the perilous Strait of Magellan, seeking clues to the man-of war’s whereabouts.
Once Perpetual is at sea again, the pace quickens. Four days out from Madeira, she encounters a British frigate under attack by a pair of French corvettes and sails into battle, taking a prize.
Reaching the passage separating South America from the Island of Tierra del Fuego, the frigate slowly makes her way westward, eluding rocks and small islands.
Muir’s vivid description of this forbidding place left me with a chill.
Rounding a headland, a lookout spies an abandoned square-rigger, foundered and seemingly deserted, with condors floating on light airs above. A nightmarish scene greets Quintrell and the Perpetuals, as they board the ghost ship.
Escaping the dismal passage and standing out into the Pacific on a northerly course, the mood aboard brightens noticeably as Perpetual skirts the South American coast.
But French privateers and political schemes complicate the mission.
Muir writes a splendid story, combining crisp prose, heightened
by a keenness that kept me turning pages late into the evening.
The Tainted Prize, along with the initial Oliver Quintrell adventure, Floating Gold, scrupulously depict the Royal Navy during Napoleonic times.
George Jepson (Editor – Quarterdeck)