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 Schiller 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, unmoving 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, industrious. 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.