Peripatetics | Jack D. Harvey

We have here to speak
of stone benches,
hard and uncomfortable,
mostly antiquarian,
of peculiar significance
in the lives of those citizens
of the world, those old Greeks
and the others,
scholars and vagrants,
walking and sitting, sitting and walking,
thoughtful heads, sensitive souls,
sore behinds;
philosophers all, of one
sort or another,
but a hard bench
is a hard bench.

The way in which they
won comfort from the hard stone
was by fortitude or willpower
or plain indifference,
standing the pain on its head,
or, for the less limber of mind
or more resourceful,
by collecting rags in the streets
or boughs fallen
from trees along the concourse.

Symbolizing the common rights
of noble-minded men they sit.
Their tired feet become
precious necessary relics,
delicate and easily broken.

Their thoughts collapse
on their own lives,
troubled by too much
time spent on the road;
the bleak consequences of
loneliness and deprivation
make them old
before they know it,
cold to the world
and even wisdom and
history have no comfort,
no good end.

Like the hero of the Odyssey
they return eventually,
but they return unrecognized
and leave again incognito.

Sitting alone, in the days,
in the nights, wayward
in their thoughts,
the history of Rome, eternal city,
compassed in blocks of
stone on the hills;
the tragic emperor’s reign
no more than the life
of a precocious child.

 


Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. 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, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

Cape Horn | Jack D. Harvey

Read the nebulous twilight
before you try to take wing
against the night,
black as a crack
or bright with the moon;
read the silvery leaves
of the willows
before you venture midstream
in a canoe silent as the grass.

All the loose beginnings,
the ventures undertaken, understood
turn on dangerous flights;
benevolence of angels
or devils,
freshening the poorest enterprise.
The die, once cast,
turns joyous, nervous,
in the air,
no longer a cube
in fateful repose
but a revolving shape,
ending its journey
and beginning anew.

Let go! Hold fast!
Under white cliffs
by a far-off sea
ships are drawn up,
the argosy assembled.

It’s time to leave now,
time to strike out
new ways,
leave
before bell rings,
or letters come,
before cock crows,
or the law is changed;
cross the hall, the threshold,
shut the door behind you;
leave the old land.

There before you
grim and shining,
the sea’s unblinking eye,
the voyage south;
again and again
against the cold,
against the antipodes
that restless bitter water,
rising and falling,
that shouting restless voice,
warring against the night,
borne away on the wind.

Beyond Patagonia,
beyond the unsinging lines
of enormous deliberate seas,
a dream, your dream,
in the coming dark
bright as a bird;
again and again
rising
at world’s end
the loom of the cape;
again and again,
restless, monotonous,
the same fateful danger,
the same fateful repose.


Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. 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, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.