Oct/Nov 2007 Poetry

May 19

by Oliver Rice

May 19

On this day in 17, 206 BCE,
at Les Troyes Freres, a cave in the Pyrenees,
the local hunters and gatherers,
having engendered on the walls of this cavern
a museum of etched and painted pictographs—
mammoths, ibex, bison, owls—
were inducing in one of their depicters,
high on a ladder in this wavering torchlight,
an image of a human wearing the head of a beast,
or, deeper in their idea,
of an animality retained in man.

On this day in 559 BCE,
at Lycaeus, a mountain in Arcadia,
birthplace of the goat god Pan,
kin of shepherds, warriors, and vintners
were holding a festival of Dionysus,
dressed in the garb of the comic stage
as satyrs and fauns, singing, dancing,
bearing musical pipes and sacred phalli.

On this day in 2003 CE,
persons of advanced urbanity and shtick
smiled at the news racks of Manhattan,
at the standing goat man
piping on the cover of The New Yorker,
the cup for donations at his cloven feet,
the pavement and single spindly tree,
the slovenly, dowdy, indifferent passers by
smiled again at his supercilious drooping eyelids,
at the garlands around his horns,
and again at his paunch and delicate hands,
his coyly shielded crotch.


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