The Price Of Knowledge

Artemis, her heaving virgin breast
racing hard upon the hunt, the hilltop crest
bathed in moonlight with nimble nymphs thronging
their Mistress of the Moon, all limbs longing
for the twanging of the trembling bows
and Fall’s leaves flying, red-feathered as arrows
cast down upon the wild, bush-battling boar,
shadowed by her hounds, swift upon the moor.
Yet, here, a young man, seeking the hard-won heart
of Chastity herself, ever untouched and apart,
runs fleet-footed as that winged spirit, Hermes,
upon the mercurial midnight breeze.
He is dusk-faced and dark-haired as nocturnal Nyx,
and the Huntress thinks him one of Aphrodite’s tricks,
but then he downs the boar with a single arrow flown,
marking himself in her heart—him, and him alone

The nymphs gasp and giggle and tease their virgin Queen,
but she dismisses them with a murderous mien,
scattering her nymphs to the pools, glades and trees,
leaving her alone with this man built like Achilles.
She dismisses her hounds, their tails all tucked under
and running up the mountains, rumbling like thunder.
Artemis then hails the young man, so fine of frame,
and reaches out to him and asks him his name.
“Any name you wish,” he says, “is a blessing to me,
so long as it is the name you whisper lovingly.”
Artemis blushes, as does the Moon above,
for the Moon swells, as does her heart, with a virgin’s Love.
“It feels as if I have known you my whole life,”
she says, “and it would please me to be your wife.”
The young man doffs his quiver, his crown, his bow,
and his himation, standing naked before her, toe to toe.

He says, “Let us marry one another as they did of old,
with the union of our temples, the enigma of our mold.”
How fit in form they are, chest to chest, link to link,
embraced and enjoined and bound unto the brink,
but just before the climax reaches its exultant high
and the stars and the Moon all fall from the sky,
the dark-haired stranger glows with a familiar light
and the Mistress of the Hunt knows this is not right.
Pulling free from him, she looks at her lover anew
and sees her own features reflected with a masculine hue.
“I do know you of old!” she cries aloud.
“As I you,” he says, shameless and proud.
“I have warned you, sister, of trusting mortal men,
for you are the virgin goddess of the Vestal ken
and to corrupt your temple with a mortal’s seed
would be to trade the holy flower for a sinful weed.”

Horrified, ashamed, Artemis screams for her hounds,
and aims her bow to cleanse these defiled hunting grounds.
Her twin brother, Apollo, takes to the air meanwhile,
his face twisted with a rogue’s lecherous smile.
“I will talk to Father of this blasphemy!” Artemis cries,
“and he will take your tongue, your manhood, your eyes!”
Apollo’s hair fades fair, lightening to a golden-brown
and there shines upon his head a radiant crown.
“I am the seat of Knowledge,” he says, “and upon my brow
there reside all things known, and I know you best, now.”
“I could crown you again,”Artemis screams, “if I could,
with arrows made from Hydra teeth and primordial wood!”
He pays her no mind, flying away to Mount Olympus
where all the other gods watch, laughing, from each nimbus.
Left alone, Artemis weeps for her thankless role,
Knowledge always costing the Virginity of the soul.

Plain Bird

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Before the first Wodaabe man painted his face
and brightened his teeth and danced in place,
before the first Himba woman wore butterfat and ocher
and collared herself in beads and a copper choker,
before the first Maasai man tamed cattle for his own good
and the first Maasai girl was cut along her womanhood,
before the first Dinka child was inscribed on his head
with the scars of maturity, silent as he bled,
before the Mursi and the Suri extended their lips
with plates to ward off slavers and their slave ships
there was a young girl, Amina, whom her tribe named
“Plain Bird” since she was so plain, and, so, ashamed
since her older sister was both beautiful and envied
attracting a man that was handsome and of a rare breed;
a man not a man, a carnal creature of two appetites,
a kishi, a hyena-man, a man who loves with bites.

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Amina’s older sister.

Amina saw his true face beneath the mask he wore,
yet no one believed her; not even her parents, anymore.
So she left her tribe, trying to follow her sister abroad,
traveling far from her home, and her tribal god.
But she became lost, losing sight of the hyena-man
as he sprinted on all fours, losing her behindhand.

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A kishi in his true form.

In the jungle she found herself, alone and weeping,
sitting down in the heart of the trees, tired then sleeping
and dreaming of a horrible creature that was huge and green
and towered above her, its body pudgy and obscene.
The creature was the Jungle, known as the Fanged Womb,
the Many-Mouthed Mother, the Birthing Tomb,
and the Jungle told Amina the means of her reckoning
that awaited her in the mountains, thereafter beckoning
her to wake up and to venture forth to find her Fate
in the Sky Lands, where even Death must wait.

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The Fanged Womb, The Many-Mouthed Mother, The Jungle

Feeling hopeless, Amina traveled across the African plains,
and was joined by a man who seemed addled in his brains.
He was tall and slender and had hair split in two—
one side red, one side black; his name, he said, was Eshu,
and he spoke to Amina as he would have a long lost friend,
teasing her with secrets about the world, and its End.
“I am a god of words,” he said, “of quarrels, and of Crossroads.
I am a messenger for the gods, of myriad names and many molds.”

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Eshu, the messenger god; god of words, quarrels, and Crossroads

He escorted her to the gigantic mountain’s base
while above them little pygmy cherubim flew, keeping apace.
No animals bothered, or even seemed to see them, as they went;
neither lion or hyena or cheetah or rhino or elephant.
When they reached the mountain, Eshu bowed very low,
his strangely long sleeves swishing to and fro.
“I will see you again, my love,” he said with a mischievous smile,
then danced away as the wind—across the savanna, mile to mile.
Turning to the mountain, Amina climbed for days to the summit,
all the while trying not to think of how she might fall and plummet.
At length, she found an old woman sitting by a little fire—
she was bald, long-limbed, like Amina, and judging by her
scars and tattoos she was a witch of immense power.
She said, “What brings you here, my little savanna flower?”
“I want revenge,” Amina said, “against the kishi creatures
that come to beautiful women while wearing the features
of handsome men, seducing and devouring innocence.”
The witch laughed. “But whose fault is it if women lack the sense
to know a bloody trick being played upon them, my dear?
Do you blame the lion because gazelles do not heed fear?”
Amina became angry and blew out the woman’s flame,
and the witch grinned like the Jungle, baring fangs just the same;
only her skin was not green, but was instead darkly browned—
brown like the rocks of the mountain, strewn all around.
She grew tall, and vast, as big as a mountain peak
and she looked down upon Amina, and thus did she speak:
“You are bold,” she said, “but you will need to be bolder still
if you wish to kill the kishi in their faraway hill.
But I will teach you, dearest, since you have a great destiny,
though I fear it will be bloody—very bloody— and not bless many.”

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The Hag Of the Mountain

And so the Hag of the Mountain taught Amina spells
and, more importantly, told her many of the Creation Tales,
and, unlike her tribe, Amina did not adorn herself in any way,
for that attracted the Hyena Men, the kishi, to their prey.
Amina learned to dance along the scales of a crocodile’s back
and to run on all fours, barking, among a wild dog pack,
and to sneak, unseen, amidst a flock of flighty flamingo birds
and to run headlong against stampeding wildebeest herds.
She learned blood magic, too, and how to listen to the wind,
and how to make fetishes so death would not be the end,
for she died many times in her trials and during each test
and the clay figures died in her stead so she could continue her quest.
And then there came a day when she went out upon the plains
and dressed herself up, ringing her neck with copper chains
and painting her face and looping the lobe of each ear
and dancing in the moonlight, shaking her hips with a leer.
A kishi came, as expected, and Amina invited him to dance
then wounded him with her spear, taking that lucky chance
to follow him as he fled back to his clan’s den,
running too swiftly now to ever lose her way again.
She came to the hill where women were enslaved
and killed all of the kishi, so that the women were saved,
but her sister was not among them; having died in childbirth
to give rise to another kishi to defile the earth.
In her rage, Amina also killed many a kishi son,
mercilessly erasing each and every generation.

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But the blood fury had gotten hold of her that day
and with it the notion that gods, themselves, had to pay.
For, she thought, who allowed the cruel kishi to continue?
The gods deserved to answer for their irresponsibility, too.
Thus, Amina dedicated herself to slaying the Powers That Be
and taking their fetish masks to transform herself freely
between gazelle and lion and croc and various birds,
whereupon she was visited by Eshu, the god of words
and of Crossroads, for she had lost sense of direction and place
now that she had lost herself, and her own human face.
He frowned at her and he said, in a tone as if numb,
“You hate the gods, my love, but what have you become?
You are now a god against gods, the goddess of Death.”
Amina staggered as if struck, unable to catch her breath,
for she realized it was true: she had become a primordial beast
and had offered to the Fanged Womb a glorious feast;

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The Jungle is pleased by Amina’s feast.

a feast of the gods, cloyed on the creatures of Order
now slain, destroyed, their realms in unrest, border to border,
whereas Eshu, being a god of Chaos and of Change
looked upon the devastation and gauged its range
and he said, “It is fine. You have done no better or worse
than any other creature born to Life’s blood curse.”
He took her away, then, to let her rest and recover
and, in time, she loved him deeply, though she took no lover.

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The above is an outline for a graphic novel I wish I had the time and money to pursue (albeit an outline in rhyming verse, probably because I am a masochist). Anyway, it is based on various African myths and the artwork consists of a bunch of concept designs I have been playing with throughout the years. Will it ever be made into an actual graphic novel— or, at least, an illustrated novel? I dunno. It is just another dream on the backburner right now.

La Petite Mort

“Touch my breasts, not my heart,” she demanded as she gyrated atop him to the crescendo of Stairway To Heaven. Impatiently, her hand sought his, the latter crouching timidly between her breasts like a meek, trembling gerbil, and slammed it over her left nipple; her most sex-sensitive nipple.
“Oh, don’t you fucking finish yet!” she growled, feeling him erupt inside of her.
“Sorry!” he moaned, his face contorting ridiculously with orgasm. “You’re…just…so…beautiful!”
Angry, she grinded down on him harder, trying to reach climax herself. It did not work. He went limp and shriveled, vacating whatever iota of pleasure she felt in tandem measure to his manhood. He was like all of the others, then; selfish in sex, even with all of his kisses and promises of love and his priming cunnilingus foreplay. True, he had attempted to sway her heart with love, but only because he wanted sex. She looked down at him, or what remained of him now. He looked like a mummified corpse over a thousand years old. Beef jerky, like the countless others. The ancient curse, thus, persisted, as it had since Hatshepsut had placed it upon her for fornicating with her priest in her royal temple. And she would not die and go on to the land of Duat until a man had pleased her fully.
“Ammit!” she called.
The bedroom door opened and a fat bulldog entered on stiff-jointed, squat legs.
She dismounted from the leathery corpse, almost crudely, and flicked her hand in a gesture of mild irritation.
“Another one unworthy,” she said. She walked into the adjacent bathroom to take a shower and clean up. The bulldog hopped up onto the bed and looked down at the corpse. There was, faintly, the sound of a scream— as quiet as if it came from a great distance down in the shriveled throat of the inert cadaver, barely audible above the sound of the shower faucet and Robert Plant’s mewling conclusion to his magnum opus. Then again, it could have been a pigeon’s feather brushing against the highrise apartment window. If Ammit heard it, he did not care. He opened his jowl-underlined jaws and swallowed the corpse whole, as if there unfolded in his small, pudgy body a whole dimension of oblivion belied by his ostensible size.
She sighed irritably as she reentered the bedroom, walking briskly to her clothes and scooping them up. She began to dress herself hurriedly; preparing her makeup and her favorite black dress and her golden jewelry with its sapphire scarab.
“Looks like I’m going out tonight, Ammit,” she said, huffing and puffing in princess annoyance. “I feel like the Sisyphean dung beetle, pushing his ball uphill. I will never land a good man.”
She turned off the radio, as it began to play Heart’s What About Love. She sat down in front of a long, ornate mirror, applying mascara to darken her already dark eyes. She had feline eyes, like a lioness, which she inherited from her mother. Her rounded cheeks, too, were feline and inherited from her mother’s blood, as were her full lips which always appeared puckered. Her mother had been an African consort from Ghana. Her Egyptian father gave her his long black hair and dusky skin. He had been a royal priest, much like the man she had coupled with in Hatshepsut’s temple. She wondered, sardonically, if she had daddy issues and whether this whole cursed life had stemmed from a need to fulfill an Electra complex. But she hated the Greeks, and she hated Freud, so she pushed such disgusting thoughts away lest they lead to madness.
She looked glumly into her reflection with a sense of doom. She had been cursed by beauty and desirability. No man, through the centuries, had survived a night with her. Hatshepsut had devised the most consummately ironic punishment for the trespass against her divinity. By cursing her with her boons she had guaranteed a persistent curse, seemingly without deliverance. Consequently, she lived a life of one night stands and hopeless bedside regrets. And while many men willingly died for one night with her, she had hoped one of them would overcome the curse so that she could die, at long last, and escape dull eternity as it stretched out upon the infinite horizon of Time.
She braided her black hair in a complex pattern of knots; quickly, to one side. She then sighed, hissing through clenched teeth.
“The Nile is more than just a river in Egypt,” she said.
She stood up, glancing over her comely curves in profile, beneath the black dress. She ran her fingers down the black sheer gown— over her breasts, down her belly and into the valley of her womanhood. She then slapped her hip. She shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“Seduction has lost all of its savor,” she said.
Ammit barked breathlessly, once. She glanced back at him.
“Oh, I am sure you do not mind my bounty,” she said. “I keep you well fed.”
She fetched a pair of black stilettos from her closet. They were angled like pyramids beneath the arches of her feet, raising her buttocks high with an elevated “come hither” posture. When she walked in them it was with a slow, graceful flamingo poise, even as her eyes flashed with feline predation.
Glancing once more in the long mirror—and appraising herself bodily— she nodded and headed into the hall and toward the front door. Ammit followed her eagerly, breathing laboriously. He was a very old bulldog.
“I’ll be back later,” she said to him. She opened the door and stepped out into the outer hallway. “Here’s to finding Mr. Right.”
She closed the door behind her and set off for another day of hunting for hearts.

The Dream Seekers

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Only the old, wide-eyed owl dared ask “Who? Who?
Who dares trespass upon the flint-black plain
when the stars shimmer brightly, as if born anew
and crowned in radiance; their stelliferous reign?”

Coyotes caterwauled just beyond the horizon
and the hare in his burrow, like the sun, sheltered,
while twins crouched beneath the hides of bison,
stalking the thousand-headed herd.

The herd had thundered by the light of day
and now knelt before the ivory-horned moon,
the crown that empowered with each Dreamful ray
the White Buffalo that was named Fortune.

The twins watched from beneath borrowed skins
as that celestial beast touched hoof to earth
and Tawiskaron raised a spear to add to his sins
while Glaskoop shouted to stop such wicked mirth.

The herd scattered as if bitten by snakes,
but the White Buffalo faced his foe with his eyes afire,
his charge concussing the ground with earthquakes—
yet the hunter did not falter in his aim or desire.

The spear struck the brow of that Dreaming beast;
it moaned, swayed, and then collapsed in a heap,
and the wicked twin cut out its heart, thereupon to feast,
saying “I will now Dream of all beasts untouched in Sleep.”

“This is not good,” Glooskap said. “You have slain a Dream.”
“And more will I slay,” his wicked brother said.
He grinned then, as a skull, and gave forth a war scream,
vowing he would take every Dream Beast’s head.

But with the dawn came their ancient grandmother
and she went to speak to her wicked grandson,
asking Tawiskaron, “Where is your brother?
We must speak, for I fear evil has been done.”

“I know what has been done,” Tawiskaron lied.
“Glooskap hunted last night and has wickedly slain
the White Buffalo, skinning that Dream of its hide
and has vowed to hunt all Dreams until none remain.”

Grandmother Spider was fooled, or so it seemed,
and she banished Glooskap from her home henceforth,
so he ventured into exile while Tawiskaron Dreamed,
and soon the giant, Winter, rose from the North.

But Glooskap stole the White Buffalo’s hide
and used it to conceal himself in the coming snow,
hoping to hunt his wicked brother at Wintertide
to avenge himself and the White Buffalo.

Tawiksaron hid in Dreams, where none could follow
and so Glooskap roamed for many eons, all alone,
surviving on his own, but feeling lonely and hollow
for the selfish betrayal his twin brother had shown.

Glooskap traveled Westward, in search of power
to fend off the Winter, who raged over the lands,
and found himself witness to a meteor shower
that dropped many small eggs into his upturned hands.

The eggs nearly froze in the blizzard’s air,
so he took them to a mountain cave and built a fire,
then bundled them up next to the blaze, with care,
and hugged them to his chest so they would not expire.

For three years he warmed them in that drafty hole,
never releasing them while the Winter warred on,
and, in time, he felt them burning, each a hot coal
which he had endowed his own soul’s heat upon.

And then he Dreamed of his Grandmother one night
and she said she knew he was not guilty of any crimes,
but he had a destiny that would eventually come to light
as he struggled in exile and the coming End-Times.

When he awoke, the eggs hatched in a flash of light
and scintillating colors, the rolling boom-boom-boom
of electric-winged Thunderbirds taking to flight
like lightning, epileptic in that underground gloom.

They zig-zagged out of the cave, and out into the storm,
and grew larger as they crackled into the cold sky;
their lightning struck across the vaults of heaven, so warm
that it wounded Winter, and thereupon he did die.

Glooskap then awaited the end of the world
as the snows, which had fallen so deep and so heavy,
all at once melted, the profuse floods unfurled,
breaking loose over every dam, watershed, and levee.

And as Winter’s blood became a worldwide deluge
he saw serpents rising from the single, great ocean;
venomous snakes hungry and hateful and huge,
and swirling with a triumphant commotion.

The Bridge of Snakes rose, and Glooskap prayed for aid
to help him defeat such monsters therein encoiled,
and Grandmother Spider sent to him a tribe thus made
of survivors who traveled together as the ocean roiled.

Beneath the shadow of a Raven-winged magician
they invoked the Sun, that radiant daughter
whom was for every tribe, creed, and tradition
a nurturing light against the darksome water.

And it is said that they invoked the powers of Dreams
to defeat the serpents of the depths, ensnaring them all
in a great net of Dream Weavers, whose very seams
were threaded from Life and spirits that answer its call.

 

Recently a very generous reader gave my book “The Dark Dreamer” a kind review on Amazon, just when I needed it the most.  Lately I have wondered if the book series was even worth the time and effort in pursuing as a trilogy, since so few people seemed interested in it (beyond the handful of people who have read it and expressed their pleasure).  Anyway, lo and behold I had a poem in my head forecasting the rest of the trilogy and decided to write it down just before I read said generous review.  I suppose I must finish the series now, if only out of obligation to such charitable people.  It never ceases to gratify me to know someone spent time (a portion of their mortal life, no less) on something I have written.  It is a sacrifice, in my opinion, and it embarrasses me to charge money for access to my work. —S.C. Foster

The Dark Dreamer: The Hunter Comes

 

I am currently designing covers for the sequel to my Native American Myth/Apocalypse/Romance/Horror/kitchen sink series, The Dark Dreamer.  I am trying to refocus myself toward completing the sequel, although why I should when the first book has been largely ignored must be ascribed to monomania and ego gratification.  Below is the prologue to the second book.  The first book, “The Dark Dreamer”, is available in kindle and paperback format on Amazon under my pseudonym S.C. Foster.  It is written from the perspective of a woman named Madeline Greer.  The series will eventually be a trilogy, or so I hope.

Prologue:

I dreamed that I was a woman fleeing through fallen leaves from a wrecked truck. A man was in front of me, pulling me by the wrist as something large and frightening chased after us. The trees quivered and the earth rumbled. Cold gales blasted the trees and chilled me to my bones, howling like wolves on the hunt. I glanced back and saw the giant bounding after us, each stomping step a tremor that shook more leaves from the trees. His voice boomed like artillery shells.
“I will slay all monsters, Malsum!” the giant called.
“He is not Malsum,” I cried. “He is Glooskap!”
The giant did not listen to me. I heard the tightening of a bow— like an old tree creaking in foul winds— and the man that led me shoved me aside.
“Run away from me!” he cried. “He is only after me!”
I did what he told me to do, veering far afield of him. Suddenly, the night sky exploded with light as a great crackling arrow shorn the shadow-heavy forest. Trees exploded and leaves scattered. I was thrown face-first into the moss. Dizzied and disoriented, I rose to my feet, trembling.
“Harry!” I cried.
“Run, Maddie!” his voice answered me. “Go!”
I wanted to run to him, not away from him.
Another lightning bolt illuminated the forest and exploded, blooming as a ball of light that showered the trees in light and fire. I was thrown once again as the blinding white radiance tore through the foliage and set them aflame. Leaning against a tree for support, I stood and looked in the conflagration for the man I had called Harry. I saw the giant striding through the forest, his lope as calm and assured as a hunter who had downed a buck with a single bullet to the heart. I saw Harry’s body laying upon the ground, unmoving amidst the inferno. He was smoking and bloody, his chest black and red like his flannel shirt. I called out to him.
“Harry! Get up!”
He did not hear me, nor did he respond to the booming tread of the giant that came for him, stooping over.
“Get away from him!” I screamed.
The giant paused. He regarded me with an impassive eye, then lifted Harry by his feet, dangling him in one hand. Harry was limp and unconscious, swaying side to side with the movements of the giant. The giant appeared to be a regular man, but taller than a water tower. His animal-skin boots were large enough to cover a car. Over his shoulders was a buffalo’s hide. Atop his head was a crown of colossal antlers. He leaned over me, peering at me closely— his face painted with red streaks of what smelled like blood.
“Harry,” I whimpered.
The limp man stirred. Hanging upside-down, he glanced about wildly. There appeared in his hands a gray fur blanket. While the giant peered at me, Harry drew the blanket over his head, disappearing into its expanding folds.
Something happened to him, then. I did not understand it, but it was a dream so there was no logic to it anyway. One moment he was a man and the next he was a large wolf. He bit into the giant’s hands, mauling his fingers until the giant roared and flung him away. The giant then readied his bow, a lightning bolt striking the arrow and electrifying the night sky. When he unloosed the arrow the sky ruptured with blinding fulgurations.

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.