“a vast sea where there is nothing but the abode of monsters”
Phrase from Matthew Paris’s
Map of Britain, 1250
we really get into the swig of things.
call us the miraculous alcoholics.
we’re rogue waves. we tip brigs. & our drinking tilts this planet,
blurs all borders, pours forth fitful spirits from its orbits.
gorgonized by porter dense as loch ness
at ancient maps’ four corners, we dump jugs
whose currents keep these oceans circumfluent.
icthyocentaurs cavort with our self-portraits.
we’ll deal with the old man of the sea
on the carta marina of olaus magnus,
and he’ll agree to keelhaul this bar,
which has no business being closed at such an early hour.
proteus will see to it that the bar reopens
as a chain of offshore islands.
o our revelry is so pronounced,
do not doubt that barmen will sight spouters,
colossal, seahorse-headed whales who spit torrents,
who swallow ships upon medieval swedish maps.
these great sea beasts will hurl surly bouncers
from the bar’s whereabouts. don’t come too close
or our toasts may consume you like jonah:
drought be damned! we drench the thirst-crazed,
dessicated plains of mortal throats with burning rain,
restore the arid dustbowls of the human soul.
as thales claimed all this must be water,
this world’s our liquid wonderland.
the miraculous alcoholics liquefy their lives
breezing into shebeenfuls of drowned ophelias,
they sleuth secluded booths
where the Moirae plot their mortal stories.
they mean to thieve the very sheen,
the stars and fizz of spirit’s gleam,
sneaking up on the three fates with supersoakers
loaded with tequila. we must be fluid, shifting streams,
not dry, finite threads! they cry, firing until dead
spindles drip with liquid lives.
cuervo inundates the grimace of klothos the spinner
until she feels fine in all fifty states
and embroiders shining highs in all our days,
so bright with life they can’t be switched by dimmers.
the miraculous alcoholics flail away with free cocktails for all
with the bubblebursting breaststroke
of failed beginner swimmers, mustering such gusto
the measurer, lachesis, lengthens all our lives.
happy hours flower and drams dismantle stammer into banter:
boysenberry kamikazes. alabama slammers.
atropos, who always cuts it short, has such a blast
she has to stay all night. all toast the glowing present,
hazy pasts, and suture surer futures: here,
we’ll recreate fate and doom into the finest instants!
as odysseuses finally home under a full moon,
like inmates just let go, they barge right into
fortune’s maelstrom like miracles a-spin.
o tilt-a-whirling waterholes where
our heroes give sobriety the old heave-ho.
the miraculous alcoholics throw a party
it will be a wild, fright-inducing night
where the living share their bottles with the dead.
it’s not a party unless it scares you.
the costumed guest who truly is a maenad
smiles, slips you deliriants, and dares you
to consume them. soon you will be
holding hands with blindmen
who limbo on the ledge of a skyscraper.
your world will burst like a grapeskin.
you will chase a staring madman
who runs through crowds with a sword
but will realize too late that you’re that staring madman.
dionysus will ride in on a lion.
you and he will agree you are a hyena
because you can’t stop laughing like one.
you will beg your best friend to put away the gun
and drive you to the hospital,
but he will laugh and abandon you just for fun
on a street in the city’s combat zone.
bad news: you threw up on a gangbanger’s shoes.
good news: the miraculous alcoholics
send a neon stolen police car to rescue you.
get in, the driver says. the party is just starting.
the stare the driver gives as he turns into a satyr says,
don’t try to hide from the unbridled wild time,
for this night has no master.
this is the sublime thrillride of pleasure and disaster.
it is a night of endless desires.
it is as sure a rite as the stars
and their black sky of burning fires.
like bold, luckless etruscan pirates
the miraculous alcoholics mistakenly abduct dionysus.
the spindrift spray and wreckage of their days
washed away in waves by thalassa,
they find charybdis is the liquid child of madness.
gazing into whirlpool-eyed stare, they’re dared
by siren choirs to pour the afternoon down their throats.
tentacled to their first drink, blinding libri fulgurales.
sails laden with grapes larger than men’s heads.
by the gods, go back, or we’ll all be dead!
the boy’s a sorcerer! their helmsman warns.
with minds like ahabs, captainswheels flee their craft.
sobriety’s fast mangled in a panther’s fangs and claws.
frenzy has no laws: their oars turn to serpents,
writhing in their fists, striking at their eyes,
frightening them overboard. a horde of shapes,
a nightmare transformation overtakes
their entire tyrrhenian fleet:
each alcoholic fights to keep his human form afloat:
the seas fuse nose and mouth into rostrum
with no last words. backs sprout dorsal fins,
hands melt into new, smooth flesh,
surrendering swords. those with growing tails lament
missing feet. they’re led to the surface
by a nereid ilithyia for their first breath.
but there is brilliance and mercy in their fate.
the miraculous alcoholics are truly most miraculous
when they slowly metamorphose into dolphins.
they travel beyond death.
why not envy their mutability,
the marvels of their resplendent skin,
and celebrate their ecstasy and suffering,
revel in their ability to subvert all limits,
for when they swim, they take on another form:
they become graceful new animals,
the glint and shadow of their bodies
glide, leaping over the sea, then beneath
the white caps, hinthai, as the etruscans say,
speeding with the wind,
freed from every bad deed,
like the souls of the ancestors,
free from human misery…
the miraculous alcoholics steal ideal sweetness
into the green,
shadowed tresses of the
–Euripedes, The Bacchae
they’re bees staggering out of the peonies.
fading bodies leave them
ideal thieves to steal honey yet undreamed of,
sweetness unexceeded, from undomesticated species
before kouryete keepers. melisseus can’t see them.
the cave’s glow overflows, dusk’s perfect, dripping gold,
divine honey honoring the god born here long ago.
as shades dyed red, the hue invisible to bees,
they succeed, eluding stings, unlike beebruised cupid.
these honey thieves need no pity:
their tread as light as the egyptian dead’s,
weaving between hive and lightning city,
buoyant voyants who dare
to chair promethean committees.
see them stumble like black bears, sweetly stupid.
with aplomb, they reap the dreamy, syruped comb.
replenished from dark recesses, nectar-headed like Makris,
they’re slung with mugs of gleaming mead,
free amidst the forest’s dapple-shadowed tresses.
and so our lotos-eaters woke with modus and lost will
seeking sweetest substances, chasing katabasis,
because they’re obviously reborn immortals.
it’s impossible to kill their buzz.
Managing editor of the journal Phantom Drift, Matt Schumacher lives in Portland, Oregon. His sixth collection of poetry, A Missing Suspiria de Profundis, was published last summer by Greying Ghost Press.