Marooned, Howard Pyle

His home was the tavern on Nantucket wharf,
All his possessions fit in the fold of a scarf.
He drank and he swore as he broadcast his lot
To the heart-heavy crowds that filled up his pot.
His seafaring days had come and were gone;
He said he'd quit 'cause his health had moved on.
In a tankard of ale his mind slipped away
To the longing remembrance of that far better day.
He dreamt of the wind in the brigantine's sails
And the smell of the sea and the blowing of whales.
The captain appeared in his gray-peppered beard,
Wrinkling his brow where a scar had been seared.
He remembered the raids they'd made in that ship
As well as the treasure they took on each trip.
The wily sea captain would stand at the prow
And bellow a curse and a spiteful vow!
The windjammer's canvas would pull'er 'longside
Where 'cross the short gap on lanyards they'd ride
To the booming of cannons and burning of sails
And the pounding of boots as they burst o'er the rails.
Swords at the ready and pistols cocked,
They held up brave captains and looted their stocks.
A hundred times plus they'd dodged navy guns
To mock them in spite as they left at a run.
They rarely shirked danger, 'twas certainly true
Of the wild pack of boys in that motley crew.
They'd sing a sad tune and laugh at a jest
Even as lightning struck in the high crow's nest.
A tighter-knit band could scarcely be found
From the Chesapeake Bay to the Puget Sound,
For they did not fret when landed in jails,
Nor did they want when suff'ring from ails
As he in the captain's dirty bed stayed
When he lost his right leg to a cutlass blade.
Aye, those were the days, high times indeed,
Fighting with the captain and his wooden steed!
Here now his brain races back from the past
As the barkeep comes 'round with another glass.
He spent all his life in that villainous trade;
Now it was lost, the silver and jade.
'Twas just last night he laid down to die
So once again let the crossbones fly!
And bury him not 'neath the spreading oak tree
For an old corsair's heart belongs in the sea.

~Stacy Clifford
© 2000

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