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.