Monday 5 June 2023

Five Poems by Jack D. Harvey


You’re Only Dead Once

(Odyssey Book XI- Nekuia)


Farming not at all

we like,

the pasture boggy and

the day dirt-long with toil.


In the kingdom of the dead

Achilles’ flap

about working a live sharecropper

than ruling the death-house-

he must have been kidding.


He was.


Toil is lady luck’s backside,

unfurnished and smelly;

give me ghosts and

the rest of eternity.


Michael the Paphlagonian


Michael’s fingers

were big as his arms,

riding in from

a good war;

sick as a dog,

he won acclaim.


A long disease does more

to our souls

than our bodies;

the fretful blood

and flesh accept.


God called,

Michael answered

at the last;

the crown of gold

exchanged for

the white robes

of the anointed,

the helmet of salvation.


At the sacred font,

omphalos of

God’s mother,

Michael stands;

dipped in the

watery hole

Michael emerges,

waiting on death

like a good servant.

The mystic waters

close again,


as Christ’s belly.


Take, O take

these bleeding guts

away, whispers Michael

to his servants.

Tottering off,

he remembers Zoe

betrayed in her palace,

a moment’s pleasure repaid.


He has gone to

his reward,

they say,

looking skyward.

In a golden halo

he smiles from

his beautiful picture;

art for life.


Psellus told too much

and not enough about

those troubled times;


again and again

never to touch

the groping fingers

find the reins.


The Persistence of Beatrice


Yes, then I kissed you

behind the barn and

in the barnyard things

went on and on.

You quacked

like a duck and

I honked like a goose

behind the barn and

then you went to heaven

and we all cried.

At your grave

the birds

sat on the ground

and blinked.


But soon the

grass grew in

behind the barn and

in the barnyard

you crowed on and on.


Playing With Fire


In the hills and dales

of some southern state

the doves eat luscious

Daisy Mae alive;

I wouldn't mind a bite,

but I'm not there.


The gorgeous belles,

attentive at Sunday church,

later in downtown hotels

develop tremulous leaks of sound

getting poked by their beaux;

the pampered fairways of Heaven

lapse back to brambles,

closed for the duration,

but I don't care.


I'm bored as hell,

looking for something to do,

something to kill the time.


In the midst of discovery

I crouch over an ant hill,

magnifying glass in hand,

watching the orderly hysteria

of the ants.


Science, my eye,

I want to kill.


Magnified out of proportion

by my thick round lens

the ants move on their correct paths,

oblivious to impending doom

focused in a deadly point of light.


Unalterable law, my foot,

under the ranging roaming needle

of searing heat, random as Roderick,

they burst out of instinct and

blind against the fates,

spread out against me

in black perimeters;

unconcerned as a Lucretian god

I burn legions of them to a crisp.


Unafraid and afraid

of divine vengeance

I walk on.


What a heartless

sadistic story this is,

telling on myself a nasty tale;

the grasshopper, the ant

and the tertium quid.

A timeworn fable becomes

destructive and horrible;

pharisaical morality

against the grain transmuted

and to the ants' sudden dismay

the grasshopper's fiddle

sounds a fearful woebegone note.


If winter comes,

and it will,

it comes too late

for ants untimely dead

to get off a line

at the grasshopper's expense;

lost forever the cruel retort

in the sun's concentrated rage

brought to bear

by a bored colossus.


Sometimes that's how it goes

and best to go along with it

and rightly so; learning

what we really are from

the bare bones

of a tale unadorned

with humanity or compassion.




In spring you touched me

like a newfound flower,

kissed me with your rose-red mouth,

caressed me with your hands;

you said wait till summer,

write it down, write it down.


Now the river grows hot

and slows under the sun,

the path

along its bank clear and bare

as a swept palace corridor;

the sky above

immense blue dome

ominous, empty of life.


The grey mallard floats alone

under the wooden bridge,

forever fixed in place,

a Chinese painting;

nature rises in disgust against it,

its stillness, its careful art;

do we care that captured

now is really now?


When the time is right,

cut the two of us open,

see our hearts,

supposed lovers,

surprise the living flowing world

that so long we waited

in the same place,

withdrawn and empty,

still as the willows along the path,

still as the stones.


Our fire has gone out,

the days long past,

but this time together

will never end;

lost in our own bower

we need no faith in the morrow,

no newfound continents looming;

just the two of us

in one embrace,

static, eternal,

like an unbroken ring,

like a distant star's

unperceived swing

around the heavens;

only here, only now,

in one moment abiding,

under the light of our own sun

love's fulfillment is complete.

For purposes of attribution, You're Only Dead Once and The Persistence of Beatrice first appeared in Zombie Logic Review (according to Duotrope, this magazine is kaput),  Michael the Paphlagonian first appeared in Mediterranean Poetry, Melissa in RavensPerch and Playing With Fire in Fleas On the Dog.  I retain all rights to these poems.

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in The Comstock Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Typishly Literary Magazine, The Antioch Review, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, The Piedmont Poetry Journal 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, USA. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

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