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Carib Thoughts from Northern Shores

by Danny "Don Juan" Henrey

When Apollo quits in haste the greying skies,
From whence drear numbing squalls of crystal rain
With icy fingers stab a chill refrain,
The Byronist’s fancy to the tropics flies;
When the sharp west wind, Shelley’s fav’rite child,
Carries on his back the desiccated vine,
The oak, the myrtle, bay and eglantine,
George Gordon’s votaries their days beguile
With wandering thoughts of a gentler isle;
‘The frosts performs its secret ministry’
At midnight—so we’re told by S.T.C.,
In contemplation rapt that quiet hour—
Though doubt I not in Coleridge’s bow’r
To fire the frozen scene with alchemy
There lurked a kindling draught of laudanum:
As then, as now, the moon in platinum
Silvers the equinoctial forests,
Wherein, as Keats’ St. Agnes’ Eve attests,
The trembling bunny, bereft of warming vest,
Limps halting by with less than bunny zest.
Thus in rich verse have poets Romantic
Hymned Autumn’s brisk joys and shiv’ry delights,
But as I chilled ’mid those star-frozen nights,
My thoughts rebelled and grew pyromantic;
An ardent desire blazed deep in my heart
For a warming glow that porridge can’t impart.

So to low stratagems surely I sunk,
To hoodwink my boss for leave from the shop;
Wan-visaged I seem’d, and void quite of spunk;
My grey-shaded lips and white-powdered chops
Quite pulled off the trick, for softly he spoke:
‘Alas! Such a sight can I not abide;
Thy spunkless condition near makes me choke
With nostalgic pity for such a fine bloke,
Now to a shadow dimmed, pale and palsied:
For Byron’s sake, go hence! Renew thy lust
Before thee fade quite to ashen-hued dust! ’
No second command did I need attend—
To Club Med’s manse straightway my steps did wend:
Scarce in the blink of a basilisk’s eye,
Beneath that tropic moon there did I lie;
(Thus found the Byronist that which he did seek
’Pon that isle of enchantment, Martinique):
Where, bath’d in Carib’s waters unespied,
Sleek centaurs of the waves, the dolphins, ride;
Where springs the sugar cane and arching palm,
And coriander wild the breezes scent;
Where humming birds imbibe their nectar balm—
The scarlet bloom they sparkling ornament
With tiny whirring wings viridian,
So at the lovely day’s meridian
Hibiscus hearts to tiny tongues unfold
Their secret sweet, as if, with tender blush,
Lovers their dulcet essences exchange,
To alchemize a liquor rich and strange;
A decoction from touch and rapture crush’d,
Composed of three parts passion, two parts mush.

And on the quiet point, where through the day
Beneath the satin sands crabs slumbered fast,
There festered too a British body grey,
Slow-basting brown, that in the star-bright eve
Arose at last to make a fine repast
Of lobster, bread and wine, and scarce would leave
The groaning buffet vast, but to harass
With loathsome leer and tawdry banter crass
The nubile Gallic girls, who in mid dance
The disco fled at his uncouth advance.
Alas! I must confess (for it is said
Confession’s good alike for heart and head),
This shameful wight was I! And yet I did
My share, or more, of snorkelling, and dove
With barracuda menace ’mid coral grove,
Scatt’ring in panic guppies, rays and squid,
Water snakes and puffer fish; jet-skied, too,
Upon the waves above this pestered crew:
Alike on land in every sport I joined,
With sweaty brow and nobly girded loin;
For Byron’s honour would I broach no loss,
Until it dawned on me—the Frogs gave not a toss!
So haughtily to the bar I repaired,
To sample in their turn the Planter’s Punch,
And dozen variants that make a liquid lunch
Go with a swing—my, how the GMs stared!
And soon pure rum, fluid fruit of the cane,
Ran free and unopposed along my veins!
As night did fall—my last in tropics blest—
A voodoo rhythm thundered like a storm
Upon the verdant hills and lowlands warm,
As potions strange and rummy I did request
In number ever greater, which did delight
The barman, who simply ‘Julian’ was hight,
But to his patrons known as ‘The Cocktail Knight’.
‘I thank you,’ quoth I, as the noggins came
In ever curiouser refrain;
A Hoey Highball to the sump I poured,
And deep within my native fancy soared;
Pursued by smiling vampires, I restored
My senses with a frothing Oakley Twist,
Which fearsome looks, but tastes like watered piss;
Relish returned with a Guy and Mary Fizz,
That wrought with fragrance and with sweetness is;
A Whitworth Whizz Bang next down the red lane flowed,
As undulating as a moorland road;
The Hector Smash near ended there my binge—
Gin, Guinness, rum and ale in silver stoup,
With lentil stew admix’d, and ice-cream scoop,
A medley vile, the senses to unhinge;
But yet a smooth and creamy Hartland-Swann
Revived my palate fine, a benison
Of harmonious Anglo-French nuance;
All the while Julian did mince and prance:
‘Try this, big boy,’ quoth he with saucy wink,
So tossed I to the drains another drink;
The Dry Davison light and pleasing was,
But foundered I in such excess of sauce:
The bar in dervish frenzy whirled about,
And Julian advanced ’pon me in a rout;
Desp’rate measures for desp’rate measures call,
So then I decreed a Morticia Special:
Ah! Rapture bitter-sweet, it did enthrall
With dark and heady essences withal
Of dulcet days of sun and moonstruck nights,
When ageless beauty exhales her sweet delights,
And eyelids close in blissful inner sight.

So scap’d I thus from Jules’ notice gay,
Though fled perforce the lovely tropic day:
It matters not, if you will but reprieve
These friendly barbs and tipsy make-believe;
And if this Oxford night is cold and grim,
Yet Byron’s shade winks bubbling at the rim,
So raise your goblets high, for here’s to him!