Ben Doyle's first collection of poems Radio, Radio won the 2000 Walt Whitman award. His poems can be found in current or forthcoming issues of Boston Review, Tin House, Denver Quarterly, and 1913. He lives with his wife, the poet Sandra Miller, and their canine.

Academy Of American Poets

My Pirate Novel by Ben Doyle

My Pirate Novel
         I have so much to yell to you,
     mostly the way the skull

sun hits each soft spot
         of the sea so faithfully so
     solid it makes death one

tense past; tomorrow
         this broth one is steeping in each
     pore stained with seasonings

until the white day
         dilates beyond something you could
     fit in your skull, sun, which

is your novel now.
         Yes and I have to yell to you
     about your characters,

each an orphan, one
         wants something you refuse to say,
     sobbing in his skull ten

men up the mast, sobs:

Land! You     were a dream           we could have      when it was firm
enough to sleep      long enough          to dream long      enough to sleep
beyond these bodies.      But it        is a kind of      blindness now
for the very       constancy of these          random waves;      the one look
on every          finished face,      polished with spray;       wettest wood;
the tangle of tawny     weed spent     from the brown sail:    same, the same.
Here is the dark       Willy pictured       in blind Skull’s       gone eye,
dark that may       be a burning          bright for all      the cur knows—

         Then I need to yell into you
     to hold fire, be subtler

now!––keep, if you can,
              that dog’s patches over the gash,
   the arr-barks, the tri-pegs,

the chewing always
              bloody bullion beneath the floe,
back: forever until

         Instead: salt scurfed on the chain-whales;
   purple shark-bite detail,

sodom tradition
              —each tense past. Hesitate to call
   these flashbacks, my novel,

just imaginings:
              colonizing an island with
   your cannon, coining holiday,

specie, but ever
              finding no island... . My Pirate
   Novel each of your actions takes

place, each in your nest,
              nearer to the skull sun, every
   sashed, amputated man

climbs to spy and cry.  
              Limbs pile like logs around a stake.
   Each action alone, shone

through a wet glass, not
              one solid step or enemy.  
   What, are you called Downtime?
Something? Novel, what
              are you, some kind of tragedy?  
   But tragedy is unnecessary,

everyone has a
              skeleton to pour rum through, hooks
for hands, biting money.