The Ship Captain
While wandering the French Quarter during
Mardi Gras I was a stake in the heart Dixie.
Colored beads like hailstones peppered me,
and there were drunk revelers sporting masks.
I became overwhelmed by claustrophobia,
so leaving those revelers to their fine insanity
down to the mighty Mississippi I made haste
and listened to the paddle wheeler’s steam hiss.
At river’s edge I peered down like Narcissus
to view my image in its immaculate reflection.
But much too murky was the brown river,
perhaps poisonous as is the vaunted Ganges.
I stood tiptoe like an elaborate ballet dancer
upon that muddy shore, perfectly balanced,
then spun at such speed my head soon dizzied
and my skin evolved to a faint powder blue.
A lion’s roar came bursting from the sky
and a herd of wild jackals raced past me.
Twin jets streaked in the sky overhead
as a three-headed serpent slithered nearby.
Heaven hath not host haughty as the mermaid
journeying upstream from the Gulf of Mexico.
Bouncy and brisk, she skimmed the wide river
atop a crimson tortoise with diamond eyes.
Fifty buglers appeared in phalanx on the jetty
playing “Taps.” I recognized them from a dream.
They were demigods bent on my total destruction
that I dismissed with a flick of my powerful wrist.
I remained focused on an itsy bitsy daffodil
that stood alone on a hillock signaling winter.
There where thousands of sinners’ woebegone
souls were stored I tumbled into a vacuum.
Doubters, haunters, snake oil agents, devils
and radiant angels swirled in circles, and then
marched in front of me on a pearl strand
before they slipped into oblivion one by one.
When the North Star exploded, plumes of laughter
shed tough love all over New Orleans. Thousands
of revelers froze in the moment like Pompeiians
and I ground my teeth as I witnessed this ordeal.
Gaia paid that catastrophe no mind. She waded
at the mouth of the thick river while mocking
worthless wisdom I’d gained throughout my life,
then was flown away in the arms of Mercury.
A chubby Confucian sprawled across a lotus
spanned the horizon as I boiled in a cauldron
of whale blubber, howled many a dead lexicon,
and sobbed over crimes yet to be committed.
Then this hulking protean Goliath bumbled from
his slumbering galactic closet. Acute elephantiasis
slowed him. Nevertheless he gulped whole galaxies
in his quest to incorporate new stomping grounds.
Virgins in luminous chemise gowns flowed
from planets all over the known universe.
The magic carpets they rode enflamed
by the inferno that engulfed ancient Rome.
Pantagruel spit upon Arthur’s Excalibur
which he considered too dull to fell forests
that he must so humanity may surge ahead,
while Guinevere painted lips expecting Allah.
Persephone, her necklace sapphire-studded,
eclipsed amethyst suns. Meanwhile emerald
moons remained stuck in interstellar inertia,
but I found this only moderately disturbing.
William Blake whispered to me that they
thought him a nut for believing his visions
while iron pyrite bolts shot from my pinkie,
pyrite that turned to liquid gold as it flashed.
I looked out through the hole in my mind
to check in on New Orleans, and found
the Mardi Gras queen had been crowned,
and thus my pain considerably lessened.
Tartantula, that savage king of Cossacks,
harried his clan across drenched Steppes
and over frigid snowed-in Urals to catch
my impregnable wave and ride it on home.
The Grim Reaper in his infinite mercy
decided not to lop off my head. Instead
he sewed me into his bicep so that stride
for stride I would chronicle his gallantry.
I figured I would probably die sometime, and so
thought it best to simply dissolve and dissipate.
But I held off because there existed no God
sufficient to soak up all the gasses I’d let off.
As an alternative I shrank into a cotton ball,
and hovered there awaiting the boll weevil.
The boll weevil never came, but eventually
I was trampled by a rampaging blue centaur.
Like a man whose black pillows are soaked
with ruby sweat and stinky sea slime, I fell
prey to overwhelming cowardice that stalls
feeble men negotiating Manhattan’s catwalks.
Cowardice is a destructive force, a favorite
weapon of Father Time, whose patrimony
I’ll never elude, and always tremble
at the very thought of his imperious pride.
If only I could live by the sword but not die
by it, able to process fire as food and become
my own renewable resource with no need for
defense, I’d be captain of my very own ship.
About the Poet
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly and Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry and interviews have appeared in literary journals internationally, including Nimrod, Florida English Journal, Cream City Review, Mandala Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Poetry Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Boston Poetry Magazine. He has published a travel book, Best Choices In Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poems.