Pitcairn is an isolated island about halfway between New Zealand and Chile. It was settled by mutineers from the H.M.S. Bounty and their Tahitian companions in 1790. The settlement was plagued by illness and violence; by 1800, only one adult male was left on the island. The population remained isolated throughout the next 150 years, despite becoming a British colony in 1838. The island came into the public eye in 2004 when six Pitcairn men (a third of the male population) went on trial for the sexual abuses of minors, a practice that has a purported long history and tradition on the island. Islanders insisted early sexual activity was a normal and accepted cultural practice on Pitcairn. Investigators concluded that virtually every female growing up on Pitcairn in the last 40 years had been sexually abused. Today, Pitcairn has about 50 inhabitants from nine families.
On Pitcairn On Pitcairn the girls grow banana-wild and babies have skulls shaped like coconuts. The women have hair that smells of salt after a storm and the boys run on legs thick like masts. The shipwreck stares up from the bay, a big dead mouth. Everybody eats breadfruit. The men are on the mountains, looking down. The men are combing long beards and carving long sticks to walk with. The men want to talk but they don’t know how. The men know how to sail but they won’t sail away. The men put their long fingers around the slim vines. The men plant their feet into the broad beach. Everybody writes love letters. Little girls write love letters. Men have dark handwriting and nobody puts a message in a bottle. The women are watching, then not watching. The little boys are unsticking envelopes and their fathers are out getting stamps. The rocks on the beach are still sharp, they do not become smooth. Everybody goes barefoot and swings through the banyan trees, pretends to dangle off cliffs. Babies cut their teeth on whittled wood. Daughters dance at the edge and boys know how to find blood. The women rise like fishing line and ebb like the lowest tide. The blue ocean is blurring and blurring into the sky. In the whitewash church, the families hold hands and pray. Boys to girls, wives to husbands, grandmothers to grandfathers. Everybody raises their voice to the wind and the wind smells like hibiscus and the hibiscus can sing away the ships. On Pitcairn, even the flowers know how to sing away the ships.
Mutiny on the Bounty Breadfruit is what we came for, green and brain-shaped. We came to spread our seed around the howling Pacific, to make food for the men who serve the men who pay for us to be free on the high ocean. Christian was bloodless and didn’t want a fight, stared at Bligh down the barrel of his gun. Bligh got in the tiny boat, and we all cracked our teeth on breadfruit as he got smaller and smaller. I am in hell I am in hell. Tahiti is breezes breadfruit breasts, sweat and salty legs, baby in the belly, broken wood, hold a coconut against your cheek, put a flower in your dark dark hair, gather men and go. A Thursday in October is when Thursday was born, no name of England, mother squatting on the black rock. English ruffled collars runny noses sonorous voices of powerful men and we’re gone and we’re gone forever and we’re by ourselves surrounded by a sky the color of baby veins and a sea as black as the back of a throat.
For Kari Young Little blonde girl popcorn legs sticking to the seats sees Clark Gable feels a twitter twinge his slick hair the way he sailed the ship smiles his shirt billowing like sails later she takes tea with the Queen sugary sweet her husband’s eyes her husband’s eyes your husband’s eyes Clark Gable your island.
Bounty Bay We are all marooned in the bay. We must row out to sea. The ship is speaking, why can’t you hear it. In Pitcairn we say angry, we mean ugly. We mean ugly.
Wanta Bike?This phrase is said to have been code for “Want to have sex?” in Pitcairn parlance. Fast through the island hold on tight to his back don’t pinch your toe in the spokes. Back behind the banyan trees under the cool green leaves water rushing in your ears rushing in your eyes. A finger. A mouth. The bright orb. The thin line. Your face puckered in the rounding of the handlebars. Flat mirror.
If You Would Like to Take a Walk Down ThereAll text taken from pitcairntravel.pn Home to the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers and their Tahitian consorts. We invite and encourage people who is easygoing, fun loving and who seek. If you want to get adventures and collect bananas, view our top spots and give you your bearings. For instance, the stain never comes out of clothing so don’t bring you best clothes and white things may never be white again! We have electricity for 10 hours per day – five in the morning and five in the evening. For a relaxing time, you might like to sit back with a book and scan the crystal clear ocean and take your own photo. Sit where Fletcher Christian sat and pondered his rebellious actions. Meal times can be arranged to suit you. There are many other things to do on this little island. If you are visiting and it is a local’s birthday, you may be invited to a public dinner where we all celebrate with the birthday boy or girl of any age.
Pitkern Mothers and fathers have soft feet in the night have silent feet in the night. The sound of the ocean hitting a black rock. The sound of spit hung between two mouths. The swallow.
The men charged with sexual crimes on Pitcairn were sentenced to Her Majesty’s Pitcairn Island Prison, which was built by men living on the island, including those convicted. The last prisoner was released in 2009, and the jail may soon be converted into a guesthouse.
I. The small raised red zig-zags where the rock cut into your spine. A salt-water rinse. Everyone’s eyes are blue, even when they’re not. Your white foot; not sand. II. The other side of the island, an open door flaps in the wind. Waiting for glass to come on the next ship; we’ll make a window. Waiting.
Island Song/Adamstown Cliff wind cliff lantana the generator going off. The generator coming on. Coming on and off and on and off. Hibiscus, cliff, the generator, the wind. Preacher’s wife with her amber eyes don’t go down the beach alone Knife against wood shavings fall blow away; a model Bounty. Mayor with barnacle eyes. Mother with eyes as blue as where the water jumps over the rock. Wind don’t go down the beach alone cliff cliff cliff. Mother weaving baskets, father whittling ships. Put a postage stamp on it and send it into the sea.
Carrie Murphy is the author of the poetry collection PRETTY TILT (Keyhole Press, 2012) and the chapbook, MEET THE LAVENDERS (Birds of Lace, 2011). Her second full-length book, FAT DAISIES, is forthcoming in 2014 from Big Lucks Books. She received an MFA from New Mexico State University. Originally from Baltimore, MD, Carrie works as a teacher, freelance writer, and birth doula in Albuquerque, NM.