Three Dark Poems by Jack Harvey: “Relics”, “Cassandra”, and “New York Down and Dirty”

"Relics" Poem by Jack Harvey
Goethe and Schiller Memorial, Theaterplatz, Weimar, Germany. Photo by Lina Foe. Distributed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International
Schiller’s skull
on Goethe’s table
awaits interment.
The unspeakable,
the mothering earth,
impressed with too
many monuments,
is dumb;
unanswered Beethoven’s
out in the cold.

Mann’s Faust,
lost in spiritual ice,
like a crane stretches
from one shipwreck
to the next;
shipwrecked for good,
Schiller’s skull,
thrown up
by an unsteady sea,
lingers on the beach.

Consider the consequences
of genius or exceptional eyes
and ears, limbs and
all the rest;
like the rest of us
consigned to jumping over
fences till death
do you part
from the earthly part,
the dross, the gloss
on the text;

consider the ant,
you dreamers,
and fall back in line.

The fires of creation and
the winds of the muses
blew through Schiller’s head,
possessing him and possessed;
breathed on by divine lips,
eyes rolling like windmills,
he suffered the bread 
of pain, the water 
of anguish,
scribbled away and
the legions of the lesser
built their castles on his books,
built on his backbone.

Long ago
in the dark German woods
Varus had his problems.
Rome marched back and forth
in the damp and the cold;
the southern Mediterranean light
paled, and went out.

Centuries later
turned south;
dignity and sun
drew on enthusiasm;
the sacrifices of yore
dimmed to a point
and then all was light.
Light from the dome
blasted the dark
sides of the temples
white as sheets;
Schiller, at the 
zenith of his flight,
as Zeno’s arrow
looks out:
an eagle fixed.

Now on a table
his skull
grins at the skill
not lost;
the bard shall not 
go speechless to Orcus.

And Goethe,
setting like Antares,
sees a pattern everywhere;
moonlight and 
hope at the last. 

Goodbye both;
you served us
better than most,
raised us
high as the Venusberg,
sunk us
to the depths 
of the Brocken.
Flesh and bone conjurers,
sufferers of human ills,
your secrets are safe
with us,
your honorable works
stand in unbroken ranks.

Immer besser,
immer heiterer,
the dark side,
the light,
live off the flame;
Schiller’s skull,
balanced in Goethe’s hand,
grins like an ape,
and then dies again.
Mystic the moon-pools
of your willful soul,
those secret eyes buried
in your skull,
the skill to see,
looking beyond
the first light.

Dawn doth float
above the uneasy sleep
that God forgets;
heeding the call,
the littlest things,
the very worms,
like Cadmus creatures
of another breed,
wriggling out of the earth
turn to dragons.
You know it
before it happens;
nobody listens.

Alone we two
fain would be;
the forests of
your fair eyebrows knit;
you see it all.

Outside the drawn curtains
the placid lawn takes a breath;
stepping forward in the east
the rosy, the hourless,
the enormous sun
starts up, showing
the rim of its everlasting eye.

Midnight, my cry sounded
up and down the bedroom,
you were gone,
gone your second sight;
I lay wounded,
terrified, despondent.

Impossible in this dawn,
in this day arising,
if you came to me
there would be
less delight
in your sweet presence
than knowing the future;
forget, forget,
at noon I work
spider spinning,

Onward the sun on course,
dropping down the heavens
towards night;
across this land comes
twilight slowly, then
dark and then the real
lights of heaven come on,
tiny and distinct,
and here on earth
the false ones.

You see it all,
clear as the neon signs
we see, the future
speaks to you,
impossible burden,
and you tell us
the tragic end
of all our labors,
our mighty strivings.

In your prophecies,
your visions
thrown to the winds,
your truth for us
just as clear
and useless
as broken glass. 
New York Down and Dirty
Some people walk
the barrios, the bad areas,
these crowded wicked streets,
these dark and menacing streets,
with a certain step;
no matter what
ken the way, have the means,
have defenses, have no fear, unease
or surmise no abiding danger,
fatal consequence,
vicious attack 
of some jack-in-the-box,
a beating by
moon-maddened thugs,
malignant meeting 
with some vengeful maniac.

Walking these streets,
others surrender cold turkey,
vox clamantis, to abject fear,
a fear that goes beyond the pale 
of ignorance, of frailty 
in the face of mayhem.

Look and see
this multifarious sprawl
of latticed streets, the surround of
stoop-ridden slatterns and drunks
punching holes through the fourth wall,
through the musings 
of the home-bound banker,
suburbed in bitty splendor;
what does he know
of disorderly and crazy?
Of bumming, begging, stealing,
sniping, brawling;
from quirky aggression
stinking of sweat  
or higher than a kite
on parboiled gak?

This damned sorrowful city,
cut up in pieces not alike 
for rich and poor.
Where are the steeples
that inspired the Dutch
to dour pride?
The rose-red brick
of blocky orderly buildings?
The clean-swept streets
of old New York?
Hustled away by time
and the march of multitudes. 

In truth, 
this fabled lush land
of our rapacious forefathers
never was as real
as we make it.

New York! New York!
Gateway to the New World,
metropolis of wealth
side by side
with extravagant poverty;
the light is not for all.

No island gone to hell
but a paradise of vanity,
venality, slum of iniquity,
jagged skyline
of skyscrapers, waiting
to swallow even biblical
Leviathan whole.

Trope of mankind,
overflowing, overflowing,
so many, too many;

jump back;
you're rabbits by the abyss.

Relics appeared in Artifact Nouveau in 2016, and Cassandra in 2019 in Scrittura Magazine

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Chamber Magazine, Typishly Literary Magazine, The Antioch Review and elsewhere. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

His book, Mark the Dwarf, is available on Kindle.

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