“On Trial,” “Canzonet” and “Non Dolet”

by Jack Harvey

On Trial

In the bedlam

of bed-land,

happy as babies,

active as rabbits,

me sky-father

you earth-mother;

doubtless reenacted

by every ploughboy

and milk-maid,

sporting away

under a midday sun,

laboring

dirty and sweaty,

to snoring repose.

At night, dry-eyed,

across some midden,

my maiden flits

to a tryst

not five minutes

from midnight;

dancing and prancing

my horse makes his way;

goaded,

extends his limbs,

gallops.

Trolls and their ilk

creep out,

Comus, Momus,

oblivious Silenus,

Pyramus and Thisbe

walled up in

the same mortar;

unaccountable witnesses

to our fatal fooling.

Me King Dis, you Persephone,

rolled into a ball,

making hard love,

hurtful pleasure;

reenacting the rape

of the harvest,

the loss of the seed.

In the midst of

our exhausting myth,

we pause for breath;

a horn-mad moon pokes up

from a stand of trees;

stone-hearted fate

slays Adonis,

beast-gored,

weltering in blood;

among white leaves,

the grieving goddess

stains the anemone red

as the setting sun.

Osiris, by brother Set

drowned, sliced, diced and

nevertheless

back from death,

pieced out of the desert,

Isis drags enough Osiris;

makes life enough from death.

My, my, so soon in the sky,

the hook of dawn.

Back-treading I go,

to the hearth,

to the earth I loved

ere madness

moved a match

made in heaven.

Right on time,

the indifferent dawn

in the window peeping,

creeping, spying

on our naked skin.

The slow return of

light shows your

sleeping arms

flung out to me.

We could touch,

me standing, you waking;

healing hands

laid on

to no purpose.

Hands across the waters,

stretch like mares’ tails

over the arching heaven,

the jagged Rockies,

the lurid desert.

The traveler faces

the wind, the sun,

the storm;

mortal ancient danger

in the quick speech,

the rolling eye,

of a stranger

met in the wastes.

Wasted on no one,

for the strong

as well as the weak,

a service

simple as a cup

of water

draws on Nemesis;

Telephus and Philoctetes

beg and fester

in stinking rags.

For the traders

at love’s oasis,

the welcome is short,

the pleasures even shorter.

A man, a woman,

a woman, a man

embrace and are loved;

become quite contrary,

the duet ends.

Our frantic amours

last and least.

Transfixed

like Saint Sebastian

I smile myself silly

at the tricks of

the trade,

the false face of

the barter.

The way of a man with a maid?

Woman, you wound.

Pricked with arrows,

porcupined with spears,

we crawl off together;

clumsy impossible beast.

Now, in broad daylight,

beyond the brick of history,

the tricks of mythology,

in a time

of no gods,

of no roads to paradise,

of highways leading nowhere,

safe in a safe harbor,

secure in our narrow room,

we languish

like prisoners;

hope and age alone

hold the faithful;

angry no longer.

Not as vain as

we used to be,

bent down somewhat;

fallen somewhat

into a harmony.

Your breath softer,

my spirit warmer,

yet our hard hearts,

set on separate courses,

divide the waters,

alone and apart.

Sky farther,

earth nearer,

still stars

and a lighthouse of stone.

Pass, friend, and leave nothing;

with this hard monument

leave

but your memory

of the light within.

Stern law of life,

have mercy enough for us,

wandering couple

on this earth;

two lovers, still two,

on a bleak altar,

again and again

for no good reason

making one gift of love.

Canzonet

Met a pretty rose

in a pretty garden,

was never rose more sublime.

After converse

sweet and subtle,

I bestowed a kiss

on her pretty lips,

but divertissement

was not to be mine.

She slapped my face

with a heavy hand

to me less endearing

than reluctant surrender.

I ran off downstage,

by this impudent shepherdess

put down;

in love's enchanted playground

reason and pleasure

so they say,

don't mix;

good manners either.

But noble effort deserved

a noble rebuff;

this witless hoyden

had no handsome riposte,

cast a cold eye

on my discourse,

my decent passion.

I left a rose

in a pretty garden;

blessed rose

with thee conversing,

advancing, in full retreat,

I lost my time.

Non Dolet

The pleasures of philosophy;

the smiling stars

parade out of heaven,

one by one,

and more than one,

bursting forth with a bloom

more beautiful than youth;

but not for the young,

whose energies lie elsewhere.

The treasures of philosophy;

flowers that grow on earth

need simple sun and rain

and not the sources of things,

or the mishaps of ontology.

Consolations of the spirit

ebb and flow with time

and the light-going years;

unconsoled at last,

we cope like prisoners,

uncomfortable in the

narrow chambers of Faust.

Green sleeves, green dresses

echo the forest

and lawns

of far-off youth,

when balance was

a bouncing ball,

up and down,

up and down, restless,

careless as love.

Careful now as ballerinas,

we wend our ambiguous ways

to termination.

But listen;

the fields are

green as ever, if bare

in winter, the winter sea

glad-handed and

brilliant as ice;

the balls balance still,

like sun and moon,

rolling

the miles away, the years.

Like Captain Cook,

whatever strikes us dead

strikes at least

in a different clime,

beginning and ending

among strangers,

indifferent to see us

gasp our last.

To the dump

with the memory

of the limber nervous body;

Venus’ corpse was always

there, the skull

as bare beneath the

freckled nose and

cheeks as Yorick’s,

the ribs

stark scaffolds

beneath the

nourishing breasts.

So what if all

goes under to the grave?

Let’s fare our way,

and crazy or judicious

in decay,

servants of luck and time,

let’s live like masters

in another’s house;

the good shepherd,

the faithful steward,

calm only the righteous,

or those patient for eternity.

The measure of philosophy;

whirling all overhead like a

mad king or a drunken dervish;

sea to sea,

beginning to end,

come to rest

we will.

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.