Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two Poems by Jack D. Harvey

Vlad, the Impaler

John Crow,
royal by-blow,
Voyevod 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.

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,
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.


Hannibal at Zama;
among the cannibals
an eye as fierce as any.
A quick revenge
proved slow as sand
in an hourglass;
the swamps, the lake,
like dreams
on the long marches
back and forth
across the Roman boot.
Elephants wonder
how many there were to
defeat, again and again;
so many legions,
beast against beast.

Then a pause.

Loss follows loss,
an old general
makes his last stand;
unfortunate palaver
at the end;
then slaughter
complete as a harvest.

Down the drain
goes Carthage,
gone for good,
and history can't tell
us what was
left among the ruins,
and what was not left.
We see Cato's fields of salt,
the old Greek
tells us a thing or two,
sharpening his point,
and then
blue skies
under which
paints with red paint.

The bodies glisten
at Zama
the bodies glisten;
and then zebras
and then the brimming sand.

Jack D. Harvey is retired and lives in a small town near Albany, NY. Old enough to have been properly educated in the classics, he has been writing poetry most of his life. He hopes there is still some audience for poetry although he is aware that poets serve at a ruinous shrine and that the public ear is not and may have never been at their disposal


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