Monday, August 24, 2009

A Portrait of John Rackham as a Young Man (Poem)

Last week, Luisa posted a contest/challenge on her blog (the third of three she posted while on vacation): to write a 50-words-or-less story inspired by a photo she posted of a young man dressed as Jack Sparrow (of the Johnny Depp kind). Just for the heck of it, I started writing something and before I knew it, I'd been sucked into a meditation on John Rackham, nicknamed Calico Jack because he had a fetish for calico coats and britches (or so I read). I meant it more as a parody of Rackham than anything, especially because his life seemed such a parody of itself anyway, but I think it turned into something more, especially when I somehow finagled the marine scene from The Apotheosis of Washington into the poem.

You'll also notice that my narrative exceeds 50 words. But here's my caveat: each stanza is exactly 50 words long. I just couldn't fit the portrait into just 50 words. So here's 150 (plus the title).

Enjoy. Oh, and if you've any feedback, I'm okay with that, too, though I'm not sure if I'll do anything with this poem beyond this post.

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A Portrait of John Rackham as a Young Man, or The Apotheosis of Calico Jack

Boy, when you’ve plundered those deep iris pools, scarred and callused
skin smooth as Narcissus’s stare, squandered lips bowled so subtly girls
take it for love, and turned your youth obsessively out—into calico robes
technicolored as lust for the sea, self-anointing flagged cutlass and skull
on your secondhand mast;
                                     when the crew to your rear (women pooled
with the men) has helped you mutinize Neptune’s brazen advance and
the hallway you’re in has thawed to maritime swells, a spindrift-prismed
corridor hung like a lane of carnival mirrors skewing and eschewing your
soul in its regressive glance through the flesh;
                                                                 when you’re gibbeted, flown
like your black-masted flag—tarred, caged, hanged on your isle in God’s
alcove of irony: will the pitch let you slip from insatiate skin, pace the cay’s
farthest shore—its unquenchable surge—as you wait for dawn to spark
your calico lust into robes of apocalypse?