The Elect
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THE ELECT AMONG THE DAMNED

By W. T. Block

It was a night the Druids crave,
When hellish legions flee the grave
And head for Bristol's keep,
When murderers escape their lairs,
Their hangman ropes enlaced with hairs,
Entwined like snakes asleep

Down poured the rain on Bristol's quays,
Where ships of every nation raise
Their masts in trim salute.
And in the slums along the shore
The sailors swill and then explore
Abodes of grim repute.

Amid the gloom of shanty town
A tiny mission did abound
With gospel, grub and tune.
And sailors stopped between their rum
As others did throughout the slum
To hear old Tom McCune.

There on All Hallows Eve at night
Old Tom stood by the mission site
And watched the pounding rain.
When from the shadows three men raced
Into the mission door and placed
A drunk in grievous pain.

His breath reeked high of rum and rye,
And bloody threads adorned his eye.
A fever wracked his brain.
Old Tom bent low and felt his head,
Then tucked the sot away in bed
In clothing dry of rain.

His quivering lips bespoke of ships,
Of years and years on ocean trips,
Of wine and women too.
And underneath his dimpled chin
Were swollen knots upon the skin
Of deadly purple hue.

"Rum, rum, I need!" the drunk did plead
And from his nose began to bleed.
"I'll pay you!" he did state.
And lo! Within his bony grasp,
He held a coin so tightly clasped,
A shining piece of eight.

"I have no rum," the chaplain said
As close beside the drunkard's bed
He placed a bowl of broth.
Tom's youngster fed him through a straw
As Tom massaged the drunkard's brow
With a dampened cotton cloth.

"My ship, my ship, where is my ship?"
The sailor gasped with whispered lip.
"I see my captain now."
Then with a jerk he sat upright.
Beyond the room with glassy sight
He saw a spectral prow.

"Come now, my Sire, we must away
Unto the land of living day
Where icy jaws impale.
Tomorrow's dawn is twenty years
Since last you played at chess with peers
And luck on you befell."

"Ah, come, my helmsman, point the bow
Unto the southern icy flow,"
The spectral captain said.
"And there I'll meet the other two.
Such peers at chess I never knew -
Elect among the dead."

"How long, my Sire, beneath the stars
Since first we lashed our sails to spars?"
He asked upon the deck.
The helmsman like, beneath his chin
The buboes bulged the purple skin
Upon the specter's neck.

"Of years, eight score or likely more
Ago, from Thames' beloved shore.
It seems not such a while.
With rogues insane and thieves in chain,
A hundred weary souls in pain,
We sailed for Norfolk Isle."

"But never Norfolk Isle we find.
The winds around that isle of pine
Lash out before the mast.
And though my ghoulish crew may strain
To reach that isle of prison chain,
We fail before the blast."

The phantom hellship sped on down.
In twenty hours she came aground
Within Antarctic's jaws.
Beside her stood a spectral bark,
A slave ship filled with pagans dark,
Engulfed in icy claws.

A stub-nosed whaler yawed her sails
Nearby in Neptune's wintry gales
And stood ensnared to port.
Her handsome skipper, Captain Rye,
A pock-faced corpse a fathom high,
Seemed such a cheery sort.

These phantom skippers were no less
Than first to play the game of chess
Upon this frigid strand.
These demons three of bastard birth
Are verily of proven worth -
Elect among the Damned.

For forty days two demons first
Moved out their men and loudly cursed
While Rye stood by and viewed.
Then one of them, the helmsman's sire,
To win again he did aspire,
And was with luck imbued.

The slaver spook moved back a breadth,
His skull as white as choleric death,
And cursed a vicious oath.
Then Rye sat down to try his hand.
At last, the helmsman's sire began
"Ah ha! I've beat you both!"

Nearby across the glassy ice
The first mates tossed the ivory dice.
One shrieked in mirthful tone.
He gathered in the guineas gild,
Pieces of eight, and gold until
He picked up bone with bone.

A hoary rat exhaled his breath,
The one that brought the kiss of death,
Sat on the specter's head.
When all the chessmen back were stored
Upon the devil's fleet aboard,
The purple specter said.

"Where go you now, O Slaver Ghost
With all of your devilish pagan host
Till twenty years have ceased?'
"To Falkland's Isles where winds are fierce.
For twenty more I'll try to pierce
The passage to the east."

"For twenty more I will explore
To sail through Norfolk's tempest roar,
And on its shore I'll bask.
And you, O Rye, where go you then
Till time for us to meet again?"
The purple specter asked

"Two decades round this icy mound
I'll sail till next we come aground."
So spoke the pock-faced spook.
"The first of us to roll eleven
Will first in nineteen ninety-seven
Move king or queen or rook."

And on the decks of Satan's fleet
Rattled the chains on shackled feet
As bony dancers danced.
The pagan slaves wailed tones of woe
Like all the hellish hosts below
As scores of skeletons pranced.

But hold! My story's not yet told.
The sun released the talons cold
That gripped the specter ships.
The Devil's saints came on the decks,
Hung sail upon their derelicts
And sped them on their trips.

At last the sailor's voice grew hoarse.
The Devil's saint had run his course.
He fell back down again.
His breathing stopped upon the bed.
His eyeballs sunk into his head.
The coin fell from his hand.

"Put down your straw of soup, my son.
At last, the Devil's work is done."
Tom spoke his shrill command.
"Pick up the bowl of broth, the coin.
Methinks he now has gone to join
The Elect among the Damned!"

Copyright 1998-2018 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
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