dionysia

Dionysia

A poem by Jon Corelis

i

Here is a place to speak. These windy walls

and bleak escarpments, shed of all green life,

will make the dead at home

who come to take what little blood is left,

tinging our numb suspended selves with red.

Only the dead speak truth

or have a truth worth hearing: we are scars

that trace where a wound once bled around a birth

until the place was sealed

by flesh that tried and failed until it healed.

And what is speech, except to mold that moan

that always means one thing?

The world's dead end is almost void of presence.

With no embarrassment of flesh, our tongues

may paint this air. Listen:

ii

The flower is there, but not the flower's design

until I sing its petals like the sun:

the nectar trembling in the flower's throat

is sweetened by the trembling of this string,

which links the purple voices carved from silence

along one single curve from then to then,

which is the flower's design.

The flower's design is what the flower is for:

it grows to fit itself to what I sing

and finds itself for once forever whole,

since in my song its bloom and bud are one,

moving in harmony.

These melodies hold nothing but its life.

The flower's design is what the flower is.

These cypresses and poplars have a motion,

a gesture, and a speech no wind instils:

my song reveals them as a kind of rhythm,

a flexing of their being, which is joy,

a dance existing only in my music,

as do the sky, the mountains, and the sea.

My songs are to the light as light to darkness,

uncovering the dreams enwrapped in day.

Without them, all our vision sees is blindness,

and all our utterance announces death.

He comes through the twisted guts of night

plucking sinews strung on his own bone

his eyes dissolve in tears of blood

the dank shore yields black flowers

there is blood on his mouth

he secretes the darkness into a hard shellac of light

his song is the silence without which music is dumb

who is he now

with his lying tongue the hue of the breasts of dawn

and who is he now

elucidating the architecture of grief

with the feral eyelids of a murdered child

and who is he now

his skull wreathed with a poisonous incense of joy

and who is he now

that tallies the iridescent wealth of cobwebs

to inventories of shadows cast on void

There is only one thing here

no king nor consort here

no bride to staunch the bleeding of the moon

Assemble! Skitter a face in his way

show him the turning mirrored in these lightless pools

fill his throat with the gall of the frantic worm

pierce his brain with the endless spike of death

wither his hands with the curse of the sun

O the tree of his triumph will shed bitter leaves

iii

It's the warm surprise of spring

gives me that tragic feeling

that makes me wipe my life right off my face

to bare my naked mask

in the hills the hills where the pines

astonish the cool and dizzy air

fox tracks in the late snow

who would not dance in this dark brush

where the hare leaps by the icy stream

who would not laugh with the wind

where the berries burgeon bright as blood?

In the high hills where we first saw

his quick step as he frisked there

and your smile was my smile

while we laughed in each other's voice

and we all danced in the young strength

of his joy the pines the pines

as he skipped and pranced in the song that he was,

leading the playful chase along the ridge

It's the glance that means forever

under the stricken sky

sends your torrential blood right through my heart

to flower in my breath

in the hills, where the lingering chill

softly stings the stiffening buds

the hawk screams in the far crag

dark stream throbbing purple brown

under the earth shatters the sun

and warps the sorrowing clouds

while the mountain sways to the wrathful song

and he stopped short in the stern light

and his last strength made a blind leap

but cut off by the close hunt

he collapsed, and had nothing left

but to beg life with a mute cry

the pines the pines are stunned

Terror had taken his voice. His gaze

pleaded and broke. He knew that trouble was near.

The huge crest loomed above us, and when that roaring surge

broached its breathless peak and blossomed into silence,

we looked into our eyes, and the fusion rippled the circling dance

to avalanche that bound suspended power from every heart:

A girl fell on him first. She skipped like a prancing colt

from under a pine, her face suffused with a mask of glowing

joy, as her quivering throat gleamed at the sky and her hair

streaked pale fire on the breeze as she leaped.

Light as a leaf in the wind

she whirled to the poor thing there where they held him down

and grasped his mouth and jaw and ripped a rending escape

for the blind and bestial scream

that drowned in a gargle of blood.

Then one of the women howled and, taking his ankle and thigh,

twisted the joint till the gristle broke and she felt the twang

of the sinews snapping under her hands, and spinning around

she tried to dislodge the leg while fine froth flew from her lips

as she spun and her thick mane tossed

like a torch with a black flame,

but the skin still held, so the rest tore with nails and teeth

till the limb came free, and the woman,

swinging it over her head,

spattered the throng with blood and then released it to soar

and fall in a tumbling glide. That drove their frenzy wild:

then all those hands at once worked at the wound till it gaped

to his chest, and they broke the ribs,

and one hag clawed at his heart

till the blood gushed high, and gushed again,

drenching her breast

and ashen hair red as a coal as she gamboled away

clutching at pieces of flesh.

When it was over, they fled,

some to the gleaming drifts of the highest peak,

some to the steep ravines that flank the ridge,

and some to the broken hills by the wooded plain,

where they sank in exhausted sleep by the plashing stream.

The tiniest insect crawls on this blade of grass

an inch from my eye.

How laughing the water sounds.

The sun lies warm on our bodies. We must have been sleeping

a while.

And.

Don't look at each other yet.

The sky seems somehow clearer now.

I'm sad.

No.

Let's not look at it.

You're all sticky too.

O mamma I'm so unhappy.

Yes, I know.

You understand it too.

No need to talk.

I've never felt so close to anyone

and I know your gentle hands would never bruise

this quite amazing pain. There, stroke me.

O my trembling dove.

Be comforted.

How cool the water is. Let it wash away.

The tinge will fade before the town,

but we'll know it is there.

We'll never again look in each other's eyes

without that dark sweet secret echoing.

No, not forgotten, but drained from something we know

into what we are.

There.

He is not dead,

nor have his sufferings been in vain.

He lives

in the love that lets us bear what we must be,

in the whispered joy as we walk hand in hand

under the olive trees.

His voice still sounds

in the wild streams unlocked from winter's grip,

and the rains that rouse the parched hills into bloom,

and each grain of our lives.

But many are my masks,

and many shapes are molded from my void:

sometimes I come as what you never hoped,

or what you hoped for comes another way.

This is what has happened here today.

iv

The mystic stone and mantic bough

are mute and unregarded now,

the vocal fount is dry,

but still the sun and sand and sea

retain the ancient clarity

that saw beyond the sky,

and though no more the cyclic dance

of praise instils the cleareyed trance

that knows what is not seen,

the radiant darknesses that fill

the gaze his brilliance crushed can still

enlighten what we mean.

O blinding eye, whose naked glare

reveals forever everywhere,

whose luminous fury peels

the dark disguise from every blight

to stain it clean, whose ruthless sight

sickens what it heals,

since you at last have laid me bare

of all but what I am, my prayer

is only that your rays

of mortal truthfulness that bore

the answer to my being, no more

shall pierce my emptied gaze,

but let the endless sightlessness

that I myself embrace, confess

the crime which you have shown

is I myself, and let these halls

of silence shrine within their walls

the sin that I have known,

so others, whom your dreadful gleam

of vision wakens from this dream

that ends in death, may lift

their dazed and wounded eyes to me

and know that I was meant to be

a strange and healing gift.

Though what I am may not be heard,

yet I dare speak the single word

that makes this plague a cure;

polluted in my outcast night,

in blindness I declare the light

is holy, sweet, and pure.

v

It's late, it's late in the day: through these fair meads

speechless Echo cries to the shrill-voiced birds

what crime has made us exiles from our kind?

high or low? high or low? high or low?

the sea itself could not contain this sorrow

I have been torn, and so I must destroy

tear who? tear who? tear who?

tear who? tear who?

o song of midnight's broken tongue

bleeds from the mute wound

to speak is to remember

it's taken it's taken it's taken

it's taken it's taken it's taken

although she cannot speak, she still can sing

all rivers flow to Lethe

o no! o no! o no!

o no! no! o no! no! o no!

Mamma it hurts. What's done can't be undone.

Pull yourself together. Let death and silence reign.

where did he go? where did he go? where did he go?

where did he go? where did he go?

All material on this web site copyright © 2014 by Jon Corelis