Genre: Mythic Fiction
Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.
Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Much of his childhood was spent in
Upon returning to the Ohio River Valley, he has published a series of novels of increasing oddness,combinations of what he characterizes as “gothic/historical fiction/fantasy/sf/redneck magical realism” beginning with Weasel’s Luck (1988) and Galen Beknighted (1990), the critically acclaimed Arcady (1996) and Allamanda (1997), and, most recently, Trajan’s Arch (2010). His new novel Vine will be released this summer.
He lives in Corydon, Indiana with his wife, Rhonda, and a clowder of cats.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Parodos: Strophe: Polymnia
Polymnia: It is no invocation if nobody comes when you call.
After long slumber, I am garishly lit, far from the crossroads they first laid me to rest. Now, with my sisters attendant, I march in frozen procession, unravished bride of quietness, daughter of memory.
Here the climate is temperate, the light bald and difficult.
Here scholars, tourists, and security patrol the alcoves before the house locks down.
Under glass like latter-day Lenins, our dreams and bodies on display, we stand in marmoreal and marching order. Clio behind me, then rumpled Erato, then Euterpe and Thalia and Urania, Terpsichore dancing, and finally Calliope and Melpomene as you would expect—all of us trooping the side of an empty sarcophagus. The stone bristles with invented life, the observers pass by, pretend to make something of this funereal lineup, this somber girls’ parade.
Do they notice the trace of red where the relief wrestles out of the marble? Do they still dismiss it as rust?
I am the one all pensive and meditative, leaning across the podium as my eyes strain at marmoreal distances. Hair bound with filet mesh, one of the two turned back to regard the progress of the others. Two of them are masked: Melpomene, all tragic and anagnoritic, grape-leafy and buskined at the tail end of things. Thalia glares at us through comic eye-holes, laughing at what things have come to, laughing that this museum might be everyone’s last long tumble into night.
In the same room with us, in the same light and treated air, the deaths continue. At night, usually, but sometimes during the day. The krater—the enormous vase across from us—is older than we are. Attic and glistening, like in symposia days when it was filled with wine.
Upon it the black-figure god smiles. His bride Ariadne smiles back.
What once was tribute has fallen to artifact now, here in an American museum. They found it south of Napoli and brought it here, emptied and relocated like a refugee, holding only still air and recollection. Its profiled Dionysus reclines on a couch, leering at his abandoned girl, ready to reclaim her across a shiny landscape of black and burgundy.
It was almost too late for leering. Only recently, he had begun to die.
Melpomene noticed it first. The glister of our stone as she nodded in the direction of poor painted Bacchus. The breathy classical Greek from big sister, whispering he is leaving us, the old drunk, old goatgluts, old prophet and piper.
Good riddance, and I hate to see him go.
In only a short, titanic breath—in less than an hour by your reckoning—the surface of the krater began to fade, its color more blanched and ineffable, like the thought of color rather than the thing itself.
And the world is supposed to vanish along with its gods, now, isn’t it?
But it won’t. Nor will the gods. You know that, despite your ingrained desire for justice or drama. You know it will go on like this until the cows and the gods come home and out of the swirl of energy, all beings complete their forms.
But under glass, as I was saying. Impervious to touch. Not altogether bad, when you consider the children’s disobedient fingers tracing across the breasts of the Hellenistic sculptures, and the more focused adorations of the night watchman, who caresses the louche and radiant figure of a nearby statue of the god in question, of young Dionysus, small-dicked and callipygian. I have been tempted to call out to the guard, to say to him in my inveigling Muse’s accent, Enough of that, Gus, for that is the way the god don’t roll.
What sealed us off you will learn in due time, but we were open in early spring, free to still air and unrefracted light, only a cautionary sign between us and fondling by bejeweled and liver-spotted hands, because who has yet seen an American heed a sign, or at least who doesn’t think that somehow he is the exception to its rule?
The he this time was a she, diminutive and nervous and eighty years old at least, no doubt taking do not touch to be challenge rather than instruction. Guided by a heavy and exhausted son, she walked past us, extended her gloved hand and brushed a finger against Clio’s scroll. Not even a pleasure sensory in such transgressions: just to have done what she did in defiance and in liberty and meanness.
We watched her leave, the infinitesimal dust on her sheathed fingertip permitting us voyage and accompaniment. For with the mischief she had consented, had freed us also, allowing my eyes and thoughts and pneuma and deep imagining to join her return into country she thought was safe until the end.
So here is what we saw, in the Spring of the Vine and Leopard.