Periscope Portuguesa

by | Apr 25, 2021 | Wendy Day 2 - Group B | 9 comments

The Way There:

Moored off Muscat, Alfonso de Albuquerque weighed pearls, entered inky figures into conquest chronicles, leaning columns cataloging greed, and wondered whether to boil or fry the glassfish for lunch. Low on oil, brandy, joy, patience, and citrus, the crew had been mumbling mutiny since Mombasa. Only battle and pillage elevate spirits. Doldrums fanned bloodthirst, still water since Maputo, rowing Galleons inspired nobody. We need a temple to torch, cannonballs flying, night screams, more slaves. He tossed the shucked shells onto the staghorn reef glowing luminescent.    

The Way Here:

Rounding the Horn, Nelson Setubal maintains the oak was eaten from within by termites, perhaps maggots. Only the Broadnosed Seven Gill Cow Shark knows best—all that infesting pays well.  The Puffadder Shyshark might add two-clarifying-cents if found and persuaded to rat. The Houndshark took the fifth when pressed spoke in tongues. Fin envy remained the official gloss for capsize. Overload and tidal misreading were also footnoted. At least that’s what Sad Nuno the Cartographer feathered in the dispatch to Henry the Navigator, who well knew attention was propaganda.

Bounty’s Privilege  

Jackie and Truman sipped breakfast gimlets on the Palácio da Comenda veranda, would you just look at those Sado sandbars, they seem to be floating, he said waving the wand-like cigarette holder. Aren’t we all? Aristotle says cuttlefish are good for circulation. Shall we take the mules up to the windmill later? Conceivably, if I phone my words in on time, and you provide your houseboy’s companionship. Truman, you really are a hound. I prefer the word harpy. A single ripe olive plopped onto a cobblestone. Truman lit Jackie’s and Jackie lit Truman’s, not half a worry between them. Ashes flicked out to sea.

9 Comments

  1. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “Low on oil, brandy, joy, patience, and citrus, the crew had been mumbling mutiny since Mombasa.” — great! Such a poetic piece. Love the sequences. Much like your last piece (although completely different) you do a great job of capturing terminology and the musicality of the area. From a modern marina to a past hunt, you handle the language and vocabulary and rhetoric well. Authentic and exciting!

  2. Sara Comito

    How can a fever dream also be so disciplined? Fin envy indeed. What a delicious romp.

  3. Jan Elman Stout

    Wowee, David! Man, are you a wordsmith. The words themselves have so much energy but then they rush at us as grouped. As Sara said, a very disciplined fever dream. Love how you separated the piece into 3 vignettes and the way you play with time. I want to–and will–read this one multiple times. Nice job.

  4. Randal Houle

    Yes, this had some things I really like about surreal flash fiction and the best thing is that its set in a concrete environment which makes the meaning extremely unsettling in the best possible way. “Only the shark knows.” etc. but even talking about it, I tend to take it out of its context. I’ll refrain and just enjoy it. Good job.

  5. Suzanne van de Velde

    David — How is each passage so beautifully shaped, so rich with meaning, perfect pitch? So many powerful evocative images here:

    — “Low on oil, brandy, joy, patience, and citrus, the crew had been mumbling mutiny since Mombasa. Only battle and pillage elevate spirits.”
    — “…all that infesting pays well. The Puffadder Shyshark might add two-clarifying-cents if found and persuaded to rat. The Houndshark took the fifth when pressed spoke in tongues.”
    — “A single ripe olive plopped onto a cobblestone. Truman lit Jackie’s and Jackie lit Truman’s, not half a worry between them. Ashes flicked out to sea.”

    Brilliant all around! Well done — thanks for the opportunity to read more of your work.

  6. Judy Bates

    The way there: I looked up Muscat and learned it was was the capitol of Oman which is next to Saudi Arabia near the Persian Gulf.
    I guess you are taking about colonialism and plundering I love this line; “leaning columns cataloging greed”

    The Way Here: an entertaining explanation of ship sunk by termites when the ocean fish know better.
    You are an excellent writer.

  7. Wendy Oleson

    David, geeeeeeeeeeeez! “Periscope Portuguesa,” is a masterclass in making words sing. “The Way There” is probably my favorite—I’ve read it four times now—and I’m weirdly obsessed with this sentence: “Doldrums fanned bloodthirst, still water since Maputo, rowing Galleons inspired nobody.” Maybe in part because this is one hell of an inspired piece of writing. But the sounds and rhythms. Wow.

    I’m also super into this section:
    Fin envy remained the official gloss for capsize. Overload and tidal misreading were also footnoted. At least that’s what Sad Nuno the Cartographer feathered in the dispatch to Henry the Navigator, who well knew attention was propaganda.

    I’ve got fin envy over your diction! “Feathered” is not a verb I would have EVER considered in that sentence, yet it makes it amazing—as does the contrasting harshness of “dispatch,” and Henry the Navigator’s media manipulation!

    Jackie and Truman!!! That is also gold! With their breakfast gimlets and gorgeous surroundings. The plopping olives. The cuttlefish and cobblestones. What fun this is.

    Thank you for this mini-vacation. I miss the ocean!

    My best,
    Wendy

  8. Federico Escobar

    Hi, David.

    I was gladly recruited for this ride across the restlessness of Portuguese exploration of uncharted seas. The language had a lot going for it—I loved these sentences, expressed so well, and clearly so honest about the mindset of that historical period: “Only battle and pillage elevate spirits” + “attention was propaganda.” I had trouble getting a sense of what was happening, but the language pulled me through (it reminded me of the experience of reading Thomas Pynchon). The section titles do a great job setting up a structure.

    Enjoyed reading this! Thanks for sharing!

    All the best,
    Federico

    • Federico Escobar

      PS I should clarify that the first section was very clear, easy to follow, powerfully written. My trouble following events started with the second section. I wonder if that first section is a micro nearly ready to be plucked out and sent out to sea on its own.

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