Interestingly, tragedy developed out of two Dionysiac traditions: the satyric drama—probably an ancestor of the satyr play—and the dithyramb. Why goats? Perhaps the victors would even get a piece of the sacrificial goat meat. In that case, what more fitting prize than a goat? Perhaps the ancient Greeks understood tragoidia in a more nuanced sense. As classicist Gregory A.
I took our little collection of stones and jewels from Jerusalem, and one by one I thrust them into the center of each matzo ball: diorite, opal, quartz, limestone, sandstone, onyx. I watched through the window as the matzo balls were served with a spoon, one by one, into the chicken soup.
My aunt had a big and loyal constituency that typically gulped their food. For the first and only time in her life, my dear mother was declared a winner. Whatever the weather, the smoke of battle never cleared. I believe she prayed. Now I knew there was a second sin—the first, the greater sin, wasting food.
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A proper satyr, sin was my pie in the sky. I knew that in one evening Alcibiades had cut the penises off half the herms in Athens. I scouted the neighborhood, and in one evening, with our nineteenth-century American candlesnuffer, I put out the flames of seven Yahrzeit candles. I came across a magazine called Twice a Year that introduced me to Rimbaud, Lorca, Wallace Stevens; they taught me how to survive.
Out of a bar of Ivory soap I carved a Virgin Mother with a baby satyr in her lap, then another virgin with a unicorn in her lap. My thought was the unicorn represented, not Christ, but my savior—poetry. I cut school and went two or three days a week to the main reading room of the Forty-second Street Library a satyr among lions , or the Museum of Modern Art, or to the Apollo Theater to see foreign films.
I smoked five-cent Headline cigars. One romantic evening I called my father a sadist the first shot of the fourth Punic War.
It was then I was banished from Jackson Heights forever. Hard years. I learned to disguise myself to earn a living. Wherever I went I carried my desperately thin production of poems and Wallace Stevens.
I was sure Hitler was anti-satyr. I joined the Navy at seventeen. A sword wound and the G. Bill got me through college in style. I had a recurring nightmare that, like the satyr Marsyas, I was flayed—just for being a satyr, for no reason at all, not for challenging Apollo at music.
Police were called. I became a counterspy for Local I sang in a band, played the bass, waited on tables; I was a sailor on a Greek merchant ship I got the job through Rae Dalven, the translator of Cavafy ; I grazed a while at New Directions; for mysterious reasons, Dylan Thomas and I became passionate friends—I loved his poetry and his deep-throated Christianity. Anyone who really cared about him knew how profoundly and simply Christian he was. Dickens was a favorite teacher. He gave away the shirt off his back. The turtleneck sweater Dylan wore in that picture was mine, knitted for me by my Aunt Tilly.
We discovered an Italian funeral home on Bleecker Street where, after the bars closed at 4 a. He introduced me to Theodore Roethke, his second-favorite living American poet. His favorite was e.
What a concert of Welsh accents and laughter. Dylan had his boathouse, Roethke his greenhouse, I had my apartment house in Queens. I met a blond, green-eyed Catalan beauty named Ana Maria. Full of Spanish poetry and Catalan republican-heretical-anarchistic tragedy, she was a great bad-weather friend. We married at the American Consulate in Tangiers. Our witnesses—her mother and two virgin sisters. There was blood on the floor. A miracle: the sister who wore the garter and shed her blood at my wedding found her way to Philadelphia, married an orthodox Jew, a painter.
They both died too soon and are buried on a hillside overlooking Haifa. I knew in Rome there was a tradition of centaur teachers—why not satyrs? I made my way to pagan Rome. I taught English and tutored. We lived facing the temple of the Vestal Virgins across the Tiber. I decided, one August evening, to have a mythological picnic, a cookout for my mythological friends. Of course, it had to be beside the river, on the embankment of the Tiber, because the hippokamps were half-horse, half-fish; the tritons were half-man, half fish.
There were nymphs and maenads. The great god Pan himself came—and the Artemis of Ephesus on a sacred barge. You understand I could not serve my famous fish soup. The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks. The head called to the body. The body to the head. They missed each other. The missing grew large between them, Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder, Sang long and low until the morning light came up over The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after The night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hair Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit. The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train's horn Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk.
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She sang Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats. She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming Made it so. But one night the girl didn't hear the train's horn, And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain Stripping the branches of fruit.
She knew that someone Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat's body By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles At the goat's torn neck. Then somebody found the head Hanging in a tree by the school.
They hurried to take These things away so that the girl would not see them. They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat. They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have Their fun and be done with it.