‘Bliss in Cape Town, 1921’ by MJ Oliver

Bliss in Cape Town, 1921

I done find Jim in dockyard lyin on shed floor.
He look scare, I close door gentle. No worry, I say,
I call Bliss, an I kiss him rose flower mouth.

Pleasure sailor that my job, but this diffrent.
I only fourteen, rember, he fifteen, sixteen most.
Old sailor done rape him cabin boy every day, he tell me,
so he jump ship. I like you yellow hair, I say.

I bring him string beans an a pear from my step-daddy plot,
cassava an rice from ship I work nights,
a mango, a plum an a small pickle fish one day.

He love Table Mountain peek upside lille window
wile we eat an laugh lot, roll round. Oh Bliss!
he say, Marry me, then you not do this nice thing
with bad men you not love — never gain

You mad sugarbush, No! I say an throw him white arm far way.
You desert ship, you got no right, no pass. Law here hang you.
Liberty Belle she in dock an I know she sail tonight. You go.

Soon as dark Jim an me we go quiet from shed we lay.
Crew on waterfront all busy, all girls an boys they say bye-bye.

Jim he fly like mosquito round me, here, there, he kiss me.
Then short time hush, him sweet head in Bliss black hands.

Up gang plank he zig zag. Gone.
M. J. Oliver obtained a first degree in Fine Art at Reading University followed by an MA at Falmouth University. She has lectured and exhibited widely in Scotland and England. She began writing seriously in 2005 and has been successful in several competitions, including Excel For Charity’s Africa Prisons Project Poetry Competition, 2013, in which she was Highly Commended. She lives in Cornwall and is currently writing a novel set in Canada during the 1930s.