Five men on their knees in the sand, arms lashed
behind their backs. Ships in the calm distance,

bobbing beneath harboring hills. The beach
fringed with natives, some shouldering rifles,

some holding flags. The five kneelers wear white
shirts and loose pants. Squinting, two look away

down their orderly prostrate queue, to see
what’s coming. Grub? Swag? Booty? In the next

moment, thirteen unlucky men have lost
their heads: sliced cleanly, mouths slightly open,

eyes hooded in prayer. The heads sit upright,
placed just so on the sand, as if children

had buried their mock-protesting dads up
to their necks for ran between swims. Abridged

versions of the thirteen carefree bodies
chest the beach behind the heads. One head lolls

on the small of its own ex-back, while one
armless native looks on, his innocence

unquestioned. The milling men with guns and flags
have disappeared. Now, nearly taking bows,

eight starched Brits stand jaunty with hats and canes
surveying this production, this chorus

line of crime and song, sword and dance. Tea time
can’t be long. Bloody hot. The tide is out.