DIONYSUS

“Farewell”, “Dionysus” and “Duffy Ain’t Here”

by Jack Harvey

Farewell

Kids, when I cut out of this life,

don't turn on the tears and grieve;

kids, when I die I don't want

any golden speeches saying kind things

about me or some windbag sniveling about

death's sting, God's grace and

the triumphant rise to heaven.

Let the dead,

today, yesterday and forever

go down to the grave like conquistadors,

finding for themselves a new country,

a land beyond land,

go down the slopes of lost Dariens

with bold curiosity and care because, kids,

who's to say there's peace above or below?

Peeping through the clouds

for eternity may be worse than

tedious; we don't know

can't really conceive

the distant terrain of paradise.

Hell we know

and purgatory too.

Human in every aspect and

every torture, every atonement

at home with the world above;

Dante got it right.

I know that when

his better smith twisted

in the purifying flame, no longer a slave

to earthly yearnings,

his words to Dante showing

remorse and hope, gentle melancholy,

I know he knew the price he had to pay

for his excess of desire, of lust,

was fair and just.

When alive his poetry,

his voice, speaking, singing,

echoed through the courts of kings.

Christ or the muse gave him that gift

but talent doesn't trump sin

and now, below, his face glows with hope

rejoicing in the last vanity of death

waiting patiently for that day

he knows will come

when there is no sound not sweet and

heaven opens for him like the petals of a rose.

But enough with the Nick Lucas pick,

the purple patch, the discursion on long gone Arnaut.

Down to the devil or the Greek judges we go

or floating up to the empyrean,

but let's make no more mythology;

if, on inspection in some special vault of time

beyond Einstein’s rules,

beyond the peace of heaven, the furnaces of hell,

I look and smell like a piece of moldy cheese,

my leaving commonplace and everyday

as my own poor talent,

don't knock the gods or human fate

or death that rots;

in a better world under better stars

open-mouthed Arnaut's upright carcass

like Memnon's colossus

would stay and sing

as long as forever

to the stones of mother earth.

Dionysus

Let blue dawn's arpents,

lazy lawns and meadows,

announce him coming, coming,

in linen decently attired;

making his haphazard way

from someplace to someplace

with his drunken flock

of wilding followers;

the country folk gape,

the shepherds

standing still as cranes.

Any kind of close glance,

as offensive and out of place

as a looking glass pointed

at a dictator's face.

All of his devotees yelling

their heads off,

right-handedly waving

their dangerous staffs;

pine cones and sharp iron

at the tips and

blood and worse

on their hands.

His legend,

sinister and old,

affords no relief

from anything

we really fear;

that special dark

that never leaves us.

His horns spell out

the moonrise

or used to,

his retinue so used to

his grace of unseen animals,

his robe or his half-naked splendor;

he holds them forever tight

with ecstasy and death,

the hedonism of madness;

his power catches the eye

breaks on the bystanders

like the sea over a reef.

His movement, undetermined and subtle,

moves his worshipers in strange ways,

moves them unbeknownst

as the divine ocean moves anew

in the ears of the sad seahorse.

His pride is peerless,

matchless; his mysterious heart

beats for more than the vine;

like the lion of the dune,

like the strange houses

lining the river banks

he is never seen twice

in the same guise;

his unruly crew,

filling the countryside,

cover the mountainside

with bloody carcasses and vines

and those sacrificed to him, even

far away in quiet gardens,

seeming safe from his storm,

are torn to pieces, piled up parts

become a heap of brilliant red.

The god comes and goes,

becomes vicious and sullen,

malicious in his playful ways,

requires more and more

freedom and frenzy, more

sacrifice from his people,

more food for the dead.

The air outside,

close and oppressive,

the air of an enormous attic

filled with the scent

of thyme and ivy intoxicating

and his wand

drips with honey and death.

Pentheus, defiant, curious,

jailed him, but chains

could not hold him,

the wards opened and

torn from a tree and

torn limb from limb,

Pentheus paid the price,

his dead parts

brought home and

more or less assembled,

even to his severed genitals

and booted feet,

laid out in state at the palace.

And the bull, the bull, shows

and tells the divinity

of justice and revenge.

Famed Orpheus paid in full,

confounded by happenstance

and the wrong abstinence;

spurned and rejected,

raging Thracian women

tore him apart,

their sacred female flesh,

asweat in Bacchic frenzy

and Orpheus' sundered yodeling head,

goes floating down the river.

And Dionysus goes on

to his next stop and his next,

leaving the remains of his passing

to those possessed and empowered;

as to the rest,

let them lie where they fell.

What a longing we have for this!

Break it all down

to a release from reason,

as sweet and reasonable

as we think we are;

flowers of the field,

lilies of the valley,

the silent velvet beauty of the rose.

But there's more than this.

For more than this

in her shell and

slide-out box

the rose sighs in the morgue.

Duffy Ain't Here

Duffy, a couple for the road;

for us sinners

peace of mind seldom settles

at one sitting; who drinks

must mourn his sober self

and Seagram's does more

than the devil can

to justify the thorny paths of sin,

the ungodly things we do,

dirty, sneaky, selfish

sunup to sundown,

making our own misery

every livelong day.

Of all the causes

which conspire to dumb the senses,

assuage the remorse of conscience,

the noise of human concourse

leads the pack, driving us mad

with its demands, over the edge;

buzzing, humming, thrumming

of the human beehive or better yet,

red-hot bronze ready to go,

a thirsty Moloch always wanting.

Man a political animal,

so said Aristotle in cozy clamorous Athens

and welcome to it;

more noise for our own good, he said,

but we know better and so did he.

So I sit and drink and think

and love of solitude and gloom

combine, as I sink in the booze,

my hat on my head,

looking in the mirror

at a man with a hat on his head.

Dark with dirt,

the windows exclude

the remaining light of day;

in the glow of the

green neon sign

behind the barkeep,

in the gloom

of dusty bulbs overhead,

we blink and burp like

pallid monkeys in a zoo.

Passing time

I formulate a compliment

for the lady on my left,

painted to no avail;

I see her full in the dingy light

and bow to her

whose course is run.

A look at my watch,

it's time to go,

hasty I leave,

wave goodbye Charlie

and out the door.

They say small habits,

regular ways,

afford great comfort

if given time, but

too much time makes

deadly dull work of it,

laborious drudgery and

the canary in the coal mine

is when too much time

dwindles to no time at all,

frozen in place

like the great wave of Hokusai,

one eternal day,

like Hawking's space,

or the Schwarzschild radius,

one enormous rigid abyss

in which you sit forever,

a witness who sees nothing

and cares not a whit

for the never-ending day,

the never-ending landscape of now.

About the Author

Jack Harvey

Jack D. Harvey's poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The University of Texas Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. He has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies. He has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y.