The Monday Poem: ‘The Marriage of Dionysus and Apollo’ by William Leo Coakley

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!

The Marriage of Dionysus and Apollo
William Leo Coakley

When Dionysus and Apollo met,
the gods were angry (the goddesses were sleeping)
that two such equals and such opposites
should join together, to the general peril.

Love so unbridled would disturb the state
of earth and heaven: no one will be safe—
“Safety,” said Dionysus, “is a sin”;
“it would offend the body,” sang Apollo;

and they continued at their amorous play,
setting the nosey gods to doze and babble:
Dionysus fuddled them, it was his way;
Apollo, turning from his pleasure, dazzled.

They took a day to savour their delight,
a night to kiss (the kiss, of course, a French one);
mes dieux, it was a week before they lay
so deep within each other that they melted.

They gave themselves themselves, it was a marriage
that needed no review of sanctification,
the clergy (who were not invented)
were not invited to the celebration.

Love has a way of leading one’s thoughts astray:
whether to choose contentment or desire—
their bodies were animal, the gods decided,
and animals are attracted to the fire.

Every animal, man, or god,
after sex, sings in his blood—
they had been down to earth for contemplation
and even gods admit to imitation.

They sang, in harmony, their revelling song
and earth beneath them heard the noise:
it had the heavenly sound of manly lovers,
light in its burden, rough in its undersong.

The Monday Poem logoWilliam Leo Coakley has published in the Paris Review, the London Magazine, the Nation, the New American ReviewPoetry Review (London), Quarterly Review of LiteratureChristopher Street, and numerous other magazines, newspapers, and anthologies in America, England, Ireland, and Mexico. Since appearing in the Discovery series at the Poetry Center in New York, he has read his poems at colleges and pubs, in the Day without Art programs, and on television and radio. His poem “Horses Burning” won a Duncan Lawrie Prize in the l982 Sotheby’s International Poetry Competition and appeared in England in the competition anthology, edited by Gwendolyn Brooks, Basil Bunting, and Sir Stephen Spender, in 1984.

Born in Boston but now an American and an Irish citizen, William Leo Coakley has lived in London, in Rome, and in New York, where he has been publisher of Helikon Press, founded with his late partner Robin Prising. He was Managing Editor of New York Public Library Publications, publishers of many fine editions of Auden, Sean O’Casey, Whitman, Wilde, and Virginia Woolf.