In the Morgue
The body on the tiles seems cold as a block of ice; all signs of life have flown the coop. For the living the wailing wall waits outside, dark as oil; time goes rolling on, steady as a wheel. God’s will be done; His word and deed breaking all bounds, including His own. Death itself, confronting His absolute logic, goes limp as a noodle. God’s will is doom; his extraordinary quirks shy chaos into the wilderness, among the other outcasts. By the same finger that blasted the king’s wall, the body is resurrected, a brand-new loaf of bread, the bread of life, the true bread, the word of God. Wondering, wandering, embodied again, the spirit asks no questions, hove to in a sea of blood; home is here. Give us this day, weighed one way, our daily beef, our sacred host. Give us, O Lord, no miracles, please, light as flies, to tip the scales. God’s will be done, but for eternity can a universe be, whirl within curly whirl, steady complex planetarium of eternal law, carrack always on an even keel? Or can it come unstuck? Can it become cracked like an old china pot, or perfectly and forever intact? These are ores unfound and unmined. The body is cold as a mackerel, feet, legs, trunk, head, sunk forever, bound to the rules of a dark kingdom and do we care? We’re uncaring as bees, busy about the best things in life, buzzing around nectar, trying to make things sweet, trying to stay alive in a nice way. The body is cold, a conductor of the unknown, a train of cold going nowhere. Morticians meander in and out, doing the necessary; it matters not to the corpse, cold and dead, a stricken ferry sinking in a surfeited sea, to the unfathomable deep. Cold and dead, the body lies, a market offering, glass-cased among the legumes, the fish and the lamb; no way no how to cheat the fates or the laws of nature. The corpse by no fell stroke, by no hocus-pocus, ever recalled from the back of beyond. It lies there forever. The body ain’t a body anymore; it’s gone, diminished to a naught, to less than nothing. Human fate you say, this is the way it is, well, well, alas and ho-hum, like leaves of the passing year we come and go; more windy talk from the pulpit, at the gravesite bottomless, meaningless; but say it anyway. Goodbye life, hello portico of wealthy King Dis. Your coin good here, mortal, and will buy your passage to a kingdom built on time and money. Two pennies for the fare, for a stay that lasts forever, where a day outlasts the gold, the silver, the copper; your coins cheap metal for your reckoning with the dim realm, where all the glitters are the eyes of the dead. Have no fears, penny-wise; step forth pound-foolish and assured from the heaving ferry; hell has no furies, no denying spirits; only the dead, mile after mile of them decked out and penitent and hell will last, thank God, among monuments, a monument more durable than the sin of Adam, than all our sins. The body is cold, now remote as the moon. For the noble mourning kindred noble love and death go forth hand in hand and the rest of us struggle along; illusions become elusive among our daily crusts and bumpkins and our dearest bump us out of the park, this dump called Paradise. We struggle along, bound for a rude awakening in that last call to arms. Body cold, body politic, fetch the means of meaning; of being here for a while in some peace. Puissant bird of dawn, take me, too, when it’s time to go. Longer is too much; still, the body is cold, still, even here in the land of blood.
Vlad the Impaler
John Crow, royal by-blow, Voivode of Transylvania, take this ham, and eat it; a pig died for you, strung screaming on a wire. Hung on a standard, black and hairy, Valeria Victrix bores into Britain. Sladnik, take this golden hand and shake it; Mehmet's dark warriors wait for Byzantium to tumble at the little gate. Bang, bang, Urban's cannons break the walls, the lavish halls, the streets; defeat is here, the retreat of Constantine from the west, penniless, is here; here he is, dead on his feet; here he is, facing the foe; he dies here. Emperor of the east and beggar; bargaining with a bad pope a good king does what he can. The rosy shoes, beloved Pharonic ikon, fall broken beneath Peter's ravening cross; after ripe autumn, the storms of booted winter. King Constantine on his feats, by default rests; lost in the east, he struck wonders out of his head, calling argosies to the last of Byzantium. Dim, fine, old, the skin of his golden likeness through the dead and bygone winters burns our minds still, like bitter frost. Black Tuesday, the burning city, exquisite reliquary, evolved centaur horrors; ghosts aghast at helosis floating from the tombs, the ruined churches, saw black Vlad, coffin-clad, metamorphosed between dog and wolf; Vlad, Count Dracula, a likely bat, likable as the plague. After centuries, now and then, a church bell or something like it, rings in the dawn; a mystic freshening calls up the day. Night abides while the sun sees all, widening and widening his eye. For the sake of Christ take my hand, prince, sever your ties; this kind land's not forever.
The Greater Ferry
Afric and Ind, my souls, are fastnesses, are fantasies buried in the sands of the cartographer's desert; green burials hoarded up and treasuries remote and golden as Midas' child stone cold in the palace. No gift where the head remembers and the heart forgets; valueless Tiberius' bepimpled countenance on Augustus' aureate trunk. Passions, crimes are pursued to the end; tumors grow powerfully in the gloomy jungles of beginnings. Afric and Ind, friends, tissues of fragrance, plasmas, rivers stretched from hearth to hearth. Queen Bess and her men trod new-minted shores it seemed moonlings or troglodytes inhabited; tinkling cymbals whining crumhorns: soft Indian and naked savage hooted in bush and brake. Precious scions we amuse ourselves with quaint voyages to Muscovy or Ind; simple hardships. Africa and India, my serfs, are there. Giants at bay they push the sunrise more and more to the east: let our cowboys, our Ulysses, our connoisseurs of simple rewards take heed and, move by move, plant stock on a safer shore.
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. https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Dwarf-Jack-D-Harvey-ebook/dp/B019KGW0F2