Goat Song: A Dithyramb

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Goats munching on ivy I have to call an epiphany,

a new understanding these happy workers

trimming the park’s verge, a goatsong

full of meanings, implicit and explicit, I will chant.

Who else but goats find ivy tasty, I think, as I see another

reach for a sprig of cypress needles.

I can only metaphorically eat such fodder myself,

such chthonic fare, but I reach for memory of You

in that colossal hall where You hold forth with the Queen of the Dead—

some say she is your mother, I would that she is one of Your mothers

for one womb only could not contain You and of course there was that

thigh pouch of your divine father too.

And let’s remember how Demeter hid her daughter

in a Sicilian cave to keep her virginal, yet the celestial dragon,

Zeus, coiled in and brought fruitfulness to her womb

in that dark recess of the earth. In stillness of deep caves

You who have known such suffering

 

Prepare and offer the cups of relief

 

How peaceful is the sleep in the house of Persephone

How restful are the beds of Persephone

How cool the ivy, that double spirited plant.

 

But Your epiphanies always recur:

The ivy and the vine are always with us, God of Nysa.

At Eleutherai you appeared as black goat, You of the black goatskin

they called you, Dionysos under the earth.

Goats were sacrificed to the Ecstatic Lord too, those tireless munchers

prizes for the best goat song. On this bright day of the sun,

the wine put aside, I am brought to mind of the chthonic always

ready to break forth like that seizure that occurred at Nysa long ago to

Demeter’s daughter; the tales, the epiphanies, the meanings, just keep looping

round and round like a May garland, like the growth of ivy and vine,

tendrils and tendrils, tendrils twining and reaching.

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