Old Corban is narrative poetry by Russell Tibby. Narrative poetry is a form of poetry that tells a story, often making the voices of a narrator and characters as well; the entire story is usually written in metered verse.
Stock still stands Corban, stock still just staring
becalmed he is now, like a wreck on the dead seas,
lank and long haired with his wine coat flaring,
revealing the pistols both strapped at his knees.
No creaking, no slapping of lanyards on mast poles,
no shouting of orders, no growling of men
as we watched and we waited the watch masters’ bell tolled
and our faces turned east as a breeze rippled in.
Once more Corban muttered, “Just one more, me hearties,
a French ketch of wines or a galleon of gold
so run up some sails lads its time we got started
settin’ here we gets nothin’, cept colder and old.
And we sprang to the rails and climbed to our stations,
unfurled the black canvas and tensioned the staves
there was hope in our hearts and greed on our faces
as we sailed to plunder, or — was it to our graves.
Two years since any had stepped on a wharf plank
two years we had plundered and not been ashore,
but Satan kept count of the number of ships sunk,
but would he forgive us for taking one more?
Old bones as they say make for real friendships;
so trusting, I stepped up to Corban and says,
“Captain, I’ll follow where ever you takes me,
but this one is takin me straight to my grave.”
And he spun on his heels with his grey eyes upon me.
“Jim Flint – I have known thee around twenty years.
Never once have you stalled so my instinct is tellin’ me,
our last crack at treasure will end up in tears.”
And he spoke to the crew – “Our holds full of treasure;
each man has his share and your futures are sure.
Jim Flint has an instinct, a feelin’, a vision,
I trust him so changes, were headin’ for shore.”
Ah Kingston town ladies, the perfumes, the dancing
the rum and the rhythm we dreamed of this day,
while over the horizon the grey British navy
their gun boats all bristling to put us away.
And we slipped into shore on the blackest of sea nights
as quiet as mice we stripped the black sails,
rolled back our cannons and set fore and aft lights,
so we looked like a trader with ropes o’er the rails.
Below deck we huddled and Corban spoke softly,
“Each man to a one if you speak of this ship,
I will find you and drag you to hell in a moment,
slit your tongue, and with cordage, I’ll sew up your lips.”
And we cringed as his grey eyes searched all our faces
then left with our share down the Grim Reapers planks.
This ship we had fought on, our home on the ocean
then blew up behind us and silently sank.
Old Grim -as we called her, this fortress of pirates
sunk to her grave like a stone all alone,
and the blood from the battles and shot in her timbers
now roll in the waves where the crabs make their home.
So come all you wild boys that ache for adventure
do you value your lives; do you value your souls?
Then search for the man with his tongue slit in half
and scars on his lips like old button holes.
In a shanty away on the side of some village,
we sit sippin rum as we gaze out to sea,
old men of the oceans, old pirates of fortune
in the sweet Caribbean, old Corban and me.