Dionysos rests his soft hand
on the large black wheel
of the ox-drawn carriage
Ikarios has packed full
of pine-pitch smeared kegs of fresh wine
which miraculously sprang up outside his home.
When the stranger arrived at his door
kindly Ikarios received him graciously.
He invited him to sit in the best seat,
and gave him cow’s milk to drink,
the very best the old oxherd had,
and ordered his daughter to whip up a feast
fit for a King from the East.
He shushed her when she pleaded their poverty;
“This man is no man. Can’t you see?
Give him all we have, and then some more.”
Erigone rolled her eyes, but obeyed her dear father’s order,
for she was a pious and submissive girl
(on the surface at least)
making a porridge of all the seed
and all the grain their bare cupboard contained.
She mixed in honey
and kernels of a pomegranate she’d been saving
for Her who is Below,
which stood out like ruby drops of blood in the mush.
Dionysos’ gaze did not leave her,
all through dinner and after.
Modesty blossomed in her cheeks,
painting them a becoming blush.
This just made Dionysos stare harder,
and then he smiled. He turned to Ikarios and said,
“I have a gift for you, good sir; something I think
this precious fruit of yours will especially enjoy.”
Curious Ikarios rose and went outdoors,
finding by the family’s well a giant grapevine,
snaky tendrils and plump bunches hanging down
all gleaming in the dark.
It was a thing of wonder to behold,
like no tree the man had ever seen before.
He fondled the golden grapes,
then squeezed one between his aged fingers.
Juice splashed him in the eye,
and the thing in the well let loose tittering laughter.
It stretched a spindly arm forth,
flesh moon-pale and hanging wetly from the bone,
as it offered him a cup full of a liquid dark as blood.
“Drink me,” the strange brew whispered to Ikarios,
“for you are parched with thirst, and perishing.”
“Are you sure that you’re ready for this, faithful father?” Dionysos asks
as Ikarios adjusts his foxskin cap so the sun won’t scorch his bald pate red.
“I shall share your gifts far and wide
with all my fellow man, for everyone deserves
to drink the liquor of ecstasy.”
“Teach them moderation, for not all can endure the thunderstrike unscathed.”
But Ikarios is gone already, and does not hear him.
Dionysos turns back and joins dark-eyed and dark-haired Erigone
for the few hours she has left.