Lenaea

Sour grapes have never been sweeter
when victory, in the spirit of Pyrrhus,
dances in the scorched earth of Demeter
and chants loudly, “Fear us! Fear us!”
so as to endear ourselves to Dionysus
with a wine like hubris, a dizzying draught
confusing Athena unto a moral crisis
while we celebrate the destruction wrought.
Burn down all but the overripe vineyards
and let the fomented masses trample grapes,
otherwise their hearts may feel the poniards
of Nemesis, from whom no one escapes.
All life is a bitter festival of plays
whose tragedy is a captious chorus,
so make a satyr play of all the foolhardy days
when preachy tragedies begin to bore us.
Drink! Drink! Deaden the sorrow
so you may exult in a battle finally won…
for today, though the loss of tomorrow
will reckon the cost with blood-fingered Dawn.
Aeschylus of old, and Sophocles, held as second
among the Greeks, followed by Euripides,
a cynic before his time— they all beckoned
and yet we still attempt pure-lipped pleas
as we accost the Fates with approval
while our mouths are stained sour
with wine, and blood, for which no removal
is assured as we drink more with each festive hour.
This triumph is but the pomp of prologue,
so now comes the suffering of the Acts
which sobers those lost in the Bacchic fog
and clears eyes with wintry-winded facts.
More wine! More! Stomp the splendid fruits
begot by our labor; stomp while standing tall
upon cothurni shoes, those conceited stage-boots
which elevate while pressing down all.
Hold fast the mask, too, ere it drops
to reveal the flinching face which grieves;
a thing, like all other furnished stage props,
is true insomuch as the audience believes.
Like Janus, from whom January takes its name,
we are two-faced with every harvest
and pride ourselves while stamping shared shame
upon others for the same katharsis.
The error is ours, and so, too, the exacting price,
for in winning we have lost to our laurels
which strangle as ivy while we embrace our vice
as virtue, unrestrained by Homer’s morals.
And so comes the exodus, oft too soon,
because the winepress bleeds divine nectar
for Dionysus, always cursing with a boon
sees peripety befalling both Achilles and Hector.
Tragic irony does not teach us to be wiser
nor dissuade us from following Fate’s script—
rather, we are blinded by pride’s gleaming visor
as a horse, saddled and beaten and whipped.
So go on with the festival, the plays, the wine,
and drink behind your masks, and choke, then,
trying to add your voice to the choral line;
the goddess, Nike, has oft misspoken.

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