Jack D. Harvey

Jack D. Harvey

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

Mark the Dwarf

Mark the Dwarf
by Jack D. Harvey (Author), Shannon Harvey (Illustrator)
Format: Kindle Edition
Print Length: 328 pages
Publisher: Publish Green; 1 edition (18 Dec. 2015)

Icarus Reduced

“He will watch the hawk…”
        Stephen Spender

Who before him
flew so fast, so high?
His father’s advice unheeded.
A reckless boy enjoying
the freedom, the escape
from the ant-bound earth
of men.

Plenty of room up here,
thought Icarus,
flying high
on his new-made pinions
higher and higher and the wax,
cooked by the sun,
melts away, drop by drop;
then from his shoulders
the wings sweeping away
in a tapestry of liquefaction
and Icarus,
tumbling down in wonder,
strikes the sea;
coming from on high
its surface
hard as concrete.

“Like Icarus,
hands, wings, are found,”
Spender says?

Not really.

Hands, limbs, guts,
smashed red flesh,
on the sea’s surface
unfurling, floating for a while,
never to be found
on the trackless sea;
not Icarus, necessarily,
certainly not in any sense,
but a horrible mess
for the fish and the rest
of the watery crowd
to scavenge and devour.

Spender gilds
and guides the fall
of Icarus with his poetry,
lovely enough,
making Icarus’ gory end
a delicacy, an abbreviation;
from the plain facts
abstracting what he needs
to please the reader’s sense
of artistic restraint.

But Icarus falls
a long country mile
of mythic proportion;
near the sun he was,
at least, more or less,
and falling like a stone
from his height
on arrival hits
a sea hard as glass.

No seeking or finding
what’s left
in the indifferent brutal sea;
a waste of time.

That’s it, readers,
a waste of time
and this poem
as much as I can tell,
as far as I can see
and what’s the point?
Merely another dog
barking at the moon,
bow-wow, bow-wow,
for art and life,
two realities to reconcile,
to piece together somehow
into a fabric that makes
sense of it all,
gives each its place.

The trouble is that
we all bleed and die
and Hector’s grotesque
dead body,
bumping around Troy,
drags us back, reminds us
of the dirty unlovely sticky bits,
the graphic display
of what can happen
to our fragile humanity.

Too bad for us.
Paint it up, paint the lily
how you like,
write that poem;
it’s no more than
a momentary break,
a surcease
from the uncertainty,
the hard edge
of our worth and life
here below;
a stopgap for Spender
or some such artist
to insinuate more here
than meets the eye;
than the stark reality
of cold sunlight and
cold water cast
on Icarus’ fabulous flight
and fantastic fall.

Unmourned to Orcus

Wait, the hero,
maybe half a god
is coming,
Caesar or his like,
even Hercules;
hail ceaselessly,
stay put,
don’t move an inch,
look out for everything,
look out for a triumphant entrance,
big enough to show even
heroes and demigods deign
to pass pass pass by
on their way to Olympus
or the lord of the shadows.

Salute, raise your arms, swoon,
but don’t hail the wrong Hercules
screaming in the Nessus shirt
or Caesar, stuck with knives;
they don’t exactly exist that way.

You nothings, you nobodies
crowding the streets
be thankful you’re ciphers,
bless your stars
you didn’t end up
with that Nessus shirt
or sharp steel;
there’s more
to being big
than fame and glory
or a name babbled away
down the centuries;
you’ll never know it,
groundlings, on your way
unmourned, unsung,
silent and nameless,
one after another going
going, oblivious, gone down
forever to Hades.

Hither Asia, Hither Hellas

OK, Turks, Armenians, Byzantinians,
strike off your
braggadocio-bold, mustachioed
Anatolian brown-eyed poses,
blue-eyed never so
horse-riding over
the wide-open plain
on horses
fast as the wind.

Free cities, cities of fame,
anchored Hither Asia, the Adriatic,
the Morea, the Bosphorus
for quite a long while.
A thriving of libraries
and learning.

And sweaty-sweet bazaars,
agoras, plazas, your
gangrene-colored streets,
your cafés packed
one after another
against the noble fronting
buildings of yesteryear;
lively and lovely all of it
and none of it lasted.

What to Justinian?
What to Michael the Paphlagonian?
Blown white dust of the past,
flour flown from the market
across barren empty streets,
that’s all.

Open, close
door, a female foot,
bare, shapely,
ankle brown as the earth
set poising;
harlots aplenty
in the quick evening descending;
the called come home or don’t.

High above, in the north,
hang ancient monasteries;
the villagers hear and heed
the holy musical voice
of the monk, keen-calling
the faithful to prayer.

Hither Asia, you mystery,
long and rolling
to the horizon, uprising,
with too much history
too many tongues
and tribes lost forever.

In the cities
the people still as stones
in the midday heat
wait for the new despot,
bend the knee
to servants of servants;
even the dogs, lying in the sun,
hark back to a wild and lonely life
with free men
and smile a dog’s smile.

Those ancient days.
So much to learn, to absorb
for now and for then;
books were precious
as the blood of the lamb.

OK, you Turks and Greeks
and the rest of you conquerors,
mad emperors, able scholars,
strike out, strike out,
into this land of time
beset by history, haunted
by too many cultures,
too many empires;
do what you have to do
to keep the tempo, to seek
to unfold event after event.

We latecomers need to know
somebody at least kept track
of the dynasties, writing it down,
parsing the perilous times,
unwinding and patiently recording
the labyrinth, the pageant,
the crossroads of civilizations.

For us in Hesiod’s age of iron,
bent away from our divine destiny,
this is more than passing consolation.

For other contributions by Jack D. Harvey, please follow the links below:

Poetry in this post: © Jack D. Harvey
Published with the permission of Jack D. Harvey