Our Ancestor Sir James

Always proud of our family,
Mom sought ways to make us special.
Regaled us about Sir James of our lineage.
Preserved a news clipping about this legend.

She’d squint her eyes and say:
Made the English Navy the greatest in the world,
ruler of the seven seas.
Maybe greater than Sir Francis.
Darn history books couldn’t figure that out.

Scurvy, lack of vitamin C, made you weak,
bleeding gums, pain in your limbs, even death.
If a sailor with scurvy fought
against a sailor who didn’t, no chance.
A scurvied crew could languish a ship,
make it into prey, lose the battle.

Our Lancaster ancestor, Sir James
was the smart one,
just like you kids,
and your poor passed Father.
He brought lemons and limes
on board in barrels.
The English sailors, called limeys,
sucked them,
other nations didn’t know any better.
Made England the mistress of the high seas.

We never knew if it was apocryphal.
I kept the clipping in my wallet
until it got washed in the laundry.

Sir James faded, but his memory lives on.
Lemon wedges in my water,
lime twisting in my gin.

Originally published in Terror House Magazine