(As meals are made for laughter, so wine gives joy to life
but indiscretion sprouts wings. Ecclesiastes 10:19-20)
The Luftwaffe exposed Bacchus beneath rubble, twice born of fire and nursed in rain a liberated, fluid boundary, lounged in disarray the grace of Bacchus is our release into pleasure, where prayers to a fennel staff topped with a pinecone might adjust unshackled abandon and sadness: ‘In drinking wine, we drink him’ wrote Euripides in The Bacchae, but in this contest to be the ‘one true vine’ I have drowned in fundamentalism rushing to rub myself out, to empty cask and glass in the mirror of precepts: ‘to thine ownself be true’: I am soursob weeded shit sniffed on unwashed fingers, and I thirst to gape camel-like at hubris and catastrophe ah, I resent every day surrendered to moderation, the guttural groaning that celebrates order, a life denuded of ecstasy and defeat: I am fallen not to revelry, but to self hatred, lust for transcendence, and my appeal for guilt free suicide is the poured libation of metastasis with treatment denied: Nonetheless, I still love all those suburban honeyeaters under clear blue, spring rich skies, but even in sunshine, my worth is shrouded and I’m stuck self-medicating against the blue.
Contextual Essay: Bombing during the London Blitz exposed a Roman temple that was originally dedicated to the Persian god, Mithras, but was rededicated sometime in the third or fourth century to the crowd favourite, Bacchus. The starting point for this poem was my discovery of the BBC documentary by Bettany Hughes, Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of Ecstasy, & Anne Carson’s verse translation of the Greek Tragedy by Euripides, The Bacchae. Bacchus was a boundary crosser, & was often pictured as a transgender idol – our inclusive/provocateur hero. I was also very lucky, during the planning of this poem, to discover the Yorkshire folk duo, Belinda O’Hooley & Heidi Tidow. They wrote the theme music to the gender-fluid/lesbian drama blockbuster, Gentleman Jack (set in nineteenth-century Yorkshire). O’Hooley & Tidow also wrote the hit single, ‘Summat’s Brewin’ (oh Good Ale)’ that celebrates the joy of grog. This song became my soundtrack while writing this poem. My mum, without ever being doctrinaire, is tea-total (having come from a long line of ‘problem drinkers & gamblers’) so I didn’t have my first drink until around the age of 21 or 22, and from the time of that baptism I unfortunately never looked back.
Phillip worked for many years as a teacher of outdoor education and sport throughout regional and remote Australia. He now resides in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine where he is a passionate member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club. Phillip’s poetry, essays and reviews can be seen in such spaces as Best Australian Poems, The Blue Nib, Cordite Poetry Review & Plumwood Mountain while his poetry collections include Sweetened in Coals (Ginninderra Press), Borroloola Class (IPSI), Fume (UWAP) and (as editor) Diwurruwurru: Poetry from the Gulf of Carpentaria (Blank Rune Press).
He co-publishes the poetry e-journal, Burrow, at: https://oldwaterratpublishing.com
And his current collection is Cactus. This can be ordered at: https://recentworkpress.com/books/product/cactus/