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Schiller’s Skull

by Jack D. Harvey

Schiller’s skull
on Goethe’s table
awaits interment.
The unspeakable,
the mothering earth,
impressed with too
many monuments,
is dumb;
unanswered Beethoven’s
out in the cold.

Mann’s Faust,
lost in spiritual ice,
like a crane stretches
from one shipwreck
to the next;
shipwrecked for good,
Schiller’s skull,
thrown up
by an unsteady sea,
lingers on the beach.

Consider the consequences
of genius or exceptional eyes
and ears, limbs and
all the rest;
like the rest of us
consigned to jumping over
fences till death
do you part
from the earthly part,
the dross, the gloss
on the text;

consider the ant,
you dreamers,
and fall back in line.

The fires of creation and
the winds of the muses
blew through Schiller’s head,
possessing him and possessed;
breathed on by divine lips,
eyes rolling like windmills,
he suffered the bread
of pain, the water
of anguish,
scribbled away and
the legions of the lesser
built their castles on his books,
built on his backbone.

Long ago
in the dark German woods
Varus had his problems.
Rome marched back and forth
in the damp and the cold;
the southern Mediterranean light
paled, and went out.

Centuries later
turned south;
dignity and sun
drew on enthusiasm;
the sacrifices of yore
dimmed to a point
and then all was light.
Light from the dome
blasted the dark
sides of the temples
white as sheets;
Schiller, at the
zenith of his flight,
as Zeno’s arrow
looks out:
an eagle fixed.

Now on a table
his skull
grins at the skill
not lost;
the bard shall not
go speechless to Orcus.

And Goethe,
setting like Antares,
sees a pattern everywhere;
moonlight and
hope at the last.

Goodbye both;
you served us
better than most,
raised us
high as the Venusberg,
sunk us
to the depths
of the Brocken.
Flesh and bone conjurers,
sufferers of human ills,
your secrets are safe
with us,
your honorable works
stand in unbroken ranks.

Immer besser,
immer heiterer
the dark side,
the light,
live off the flame;
Schiller’s skull,
balanced in Goethe’s hand,
grins like an ape,
and then dies again.

Copyright © 2020 by Jack D. Harvey

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