Monday, January 13, 2020

Jack Harvey writes


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.
Dionysus -- Angela Raincatcher

1 comment:

  1. Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, abdicated in favor of his grandson Pentheus. The new king banned the worship of Dionysus and tried to jail him. The god was the son of his aunt Semele and Zeus. When Zeus made her pregnant his jealous wife Hera caused her death by having her see Zeus in his full glory, but Athena saved the heart of the fetus, which Zeus sealed in his thigh until Dionysus was born. As "the god that comes," he became the deity of wine, fertility, ritual madness, and religious ecstasy. In the Dionysia festivals his female followers, the maenads, reenacted his infant death and rebirth by pulling apart live animals and eating them raw, thus producing "enthusiasm" (letting a god enter the practitioner's body or becoming one one with him). Disguised as a woman, Dionysus lured Pentheus to observe a ritual orgy, but the king was killed and dismembered by his mother and aunts. His mother, the first to attack him, tore off an arm and his head.

    Dionysus made Charops king of the Thracians and instructed him in his mysteries; the rule and the rights then passed to Charops' son Oeagrus, who taught them to his own son Orpheus, who traveled to Egypt and revised the Dionysian rites into the Orphic mysteries. According to Pausanias, he "attained to great influence as being thought to have invented the mysteries of the gods, and purification from unholy deeds, and cures for diseases and means of turning away the wrath of the gods." He played the lyre so wonderfully that he could enchant trees and rocks and tame wild animals; rivers would turn in their course in order to follow him. Soon after his marriage to Eurydice she died from a viper bite, and he followed her to the underworld in order to retrieve her. His playing moved Hades to allow Eurydice to leave with him, on condition that he would not look at her until they completed their journey out. Unfortunately, as he left the darkness he looked back at his bride and she vanished. In his despair, Orpheus became a hermit. Pausanias then claimed that the maenads "laid plots against his life, because he persuaded their husbands to accompany him on his wanderings.... When they had primed themselves with wine," they tore him apart. But even after they threw his head into the Hebrus river, it continued to call for his lost love. His mother Calliope and the other Muses eventually buried it on Lesbos, the home of the great poetess Sappho. (However, Pausanias also reported that "some say that Orpheus died from being struck by lightning by the god because he taught men in the mysteries things they had not before heard of.")


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