Monday, November 5, 2012

Orpheus Ascending



painting by gregorio lazzarini


Orpheus Ascending

“The secret of reaping the greatest enjoyment
of life is to live dangerously.”--Friedrich Nietzsche

Chewed some mushrooms for my evening meal
before setting out to chronicle the city nocturnal,
both the skyscraper canyons 
and the furtive underbelly, 
where the wet cobblestones
still shone with piss and gin
under the mercury vapor zap,
close to the river and the park
where the orphic musicians, the homeless,
the thugs and bangers and tourists mixed
in the steaming pastiche of Old Town;

stopping briefly to listen to an old man
playing a silver lyre, its sweet & nasty notes
pushing me to my knees while still trying
to cognitively capture fragments of urban
charm within the misty mirrors of my mind;

the old man said his name was Carias,
said he was a Greek, a seer, 
a fugitive from fear, his fingers unafraid
to force the gathering throng into
a twitching sacrificial dance, chanting
and growling, weeping and laughing,
tearing at their attire, freeing
their bare breasts and butts
and archaic principles, lips smeared
with purple honey, frantically flinging
their limber naked limbs seductively
at the somber sparseness
of a starless cosmopolitan sky,
stomping their bare feet with a 
thunderous frenzy, a smitten fury--

I felt chained to the stones beneath me,
could hear them rattling and chiming,
transporting me to Anatolian steepness
with the sticky taste of figs on my tongue
as the primal tension ramped up,
as the sax, harmonica, African drums
and six string guitars began to harmonize
with the lyre, the music reaching out
into the magical night like electric rainbows 
penetrating the bottom of underground caves,
with joy smelling raw and fecund as we heard
the terrible sound of the sirens,
the bellowing of bull horns,
the banging of batons on riot shields:

“Cover up your gorgeous tits, Sister,” I yelled
just as the vengeful newcomers pushed their pilum
into the plexus of the reverie, creating 
unwilling victims within the purview of love,
where the unfettered lust creatures had reigned,
until I had to cover my ears 
as the screaming became unbearable, 
and love children became
the pursued;

and though I first doubted my eyes,
I think I saw that the front line
of the covey of cops were women,
raving Maenads, I tell you, tearing
our co-mingled joy to shreds,
with their hard clubs raining down
onto unprotected pates,

as the sound of that oak shattering bone
and brains haunts my dreams because
I did glance over my shoulder and
Eurydice did vanish for my folly;

mired in my foolishness I had hoped
that the lyre’s magnificent music
would have drown out the song
of the Sirens, and we would all
have escaped the corridors of Hades,

but no, hell no, for Carias was the first to fall,
his music, his poetry, his power
was ground into the pauper’s pavement,
his last words being barely audible:
“in care periculum facere.”

Glenn Buttkus

November 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?

9 comments:

Anna Montgomery said...

'danger in the pursuit of a thing of trifling value' I suppose what happens when the flaccidity of a poet's standing in the modern world meets the virile potency of the state. Intense imagery and conceptual stability make this a sharp commentary. Impressive.

Brian Miller said...

surely there is danger in trifling issues as well...ha...had to look that up...if only i had waited on anna...smiles...one must take care in the land of the giants not to be stepped on...music and poetry will def get you into trouble if you dont watch...ha....you really bring the scene to life sir...i love street musicians, but have never met one that induced public nudity...

Anthony Desmond said...

A giant melting of fun... Great write. magnificently told! i need to hang with that old man Carias.... hah

Natasha Head said...

ground into the paupers pavement...man,...this is fantastic. As though coming out of the sweat tent to see the sun...knowing it was all too dark when you entered...another wonderful journey with your words...loving it!

Kim Nelson said...

The creation... it could be heaven or it could be hell... of man and all his foibles, desires, drives, ambitions, faults, failings, gifts and talents. And they all came at the Monster Ball.

Quotes,Photos and a little Poetry said...

You ar a maverick when it comes words and wise ones at that. bravo.

seacamels said...

I mean there is so much energy in this—in most of what you are writing, actually, that the voice is becoming quite familiar to me. It’s Whitmanian (so I can sound learned) (or Ginbergian, so I can sound Beat). Seriously. There is a voice with much energy and sound. Listen:

Chewed some mushrooms for my evening meal
before setting out to chronicle the city nocturnal,
both the skyscraper canyons
and the furtive underbelly,
where the wet cobblestones
still shone with piss and gin
under the mercury vapor zap,
close to the river and the park
where the orphic musicians, the homeless,
the thugs and bangers and tourists mixed
in the steaming pastiche of Old Town;

Shawna said...

That Nietzsche quote is awesome.

LOVE these lines:

"Chewed some mushrooms for my evening meal before setting out to chronicle the city nocturnal"

"furtive underbelly,
where the wet cobblestones
still shone"

"under the mercury vapor zap"

"its sweet & nasty notes"

"his fingers unafraid to force the gathering throng into a twitching sacrificial dance, chanting and growling"

"lips smeared with purple honey" ... Oh yeah, I love that!

"at the somber sparseness
of a starless cosmopolitan sky"

"transporting me to Anatolian steepness with the sticky taste of figs on my tongue"

"penetrating the bottom of underground caves, with joy smelling raw and fecund"

"pushed their pilum into the plexus of the reverie"

"oak shattering bone
and brains"

Those were some serious mushrooms, my friend. ;) I wonder how much of that actually happened to the speaker and how much was imagined because of the drugs. Interesting how quickly "heaven" turns into "hell."

"Carias was the first to fall,
his music, his poetry, his power
was ground into the pauper’s pavement" ... Oh how the tables turn (over).

I looked up the meaning of your closing line ("in trying to make trial"), but I'd like to know how you translate it.

I'm blown away by this piece, Glenn. So gripping and entertaining! Thank you.

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