Dunedin writer Victor Billot is the author of The Sets, an acclaimed collection of poems published in 2020 by Otago University Press. He composes weekly satirical Odes every Sunday for Newsroom.
New Zealand’s unappointed poet laureate composes an Ode for Captainess Oravida
Thar she blows
Behind the salt-encrusted wheel
stands a figure grim and lonely.
Captainess Oravida stares into the setting sun,
seeking always the spout on the horizon
that signals the Great White Whale of the Polls
is near: Moby Opposition.
In pursuit, this ancient mariner sailed the seven seas,
battled the mighty Kraken ‘neath the shadow of icebergs,
surfed whirlpools, was becalm’d in the dreary doldrums.
Lo, yet each time her quest seemed within grasp,
the cunning sea beast outwitted, outran, outmanoeuvred.
Scurvy wrack’d her pitisome crew;
Captain Mullet walked the plank to full fathom five.
Above the bridge swings ship’s parrot Simon,
feathers awry, cackling gaily and cursing like a pirate.
Water, water, all around; and not a vote to drink,
as the wretched hulk triangulates the Bermuda Triangle,
wanders the Wide Sargasso Sea, circles in the Gyre.
Steward Luxon, bring me my pitcher of Rum!
demands Captainess Oravida; there is no reply.
Bosun Reti, check the charts for reefs!
orders Captainess Oravida; the only answer
is the slop of tepid waves on the bow.
Hold now! From the west comes a fearsome roar;
for we have come to the edge of the world,
where the polls cascade down into oblivion.
The good ship Tory Celeste plunges into the maelstrom,
and Captainess Oravida will go down with the ship;
lo, she will insist the ship goes down with her.
High above, one last sight of sublime beauty remains:
Seymour the Albatross, flapping leisurely
towards the distant plume rising high –
above a Great White Whale.