Dionysus Downtown by Eoin Meagher

A sudden shower through sunshine

Like a visitation; large drops

Patching pavement darkly pristine,

Dancing the dust devils out;

Bacchic, barbarous

Harbingers herald the god himself,

As the teeming street transforms.

Pellets pepper pell-mell off cars.

Maenad puppets in puddles,

People scatter, hair clinging like claws;

Heads hatted with newspapers, huddled:

Running. All war news washed away

As the scornful shower

Rivers the rushing road.

Traffic is silenced,

Drivers drown in their dismal element,

Streaking to snug-packed moorings suburban.

Only a lone figure’s footfalls ring

Arrhythmic to the beating rain;

Out of the strange she dives

Into a crowded doorway.

Thus he comes among the crowd:

Tinned music mellowing,

As strangers smile and speak

Of old Noah and bedroom windows left open,

Washing away workaday cares,

Reviving rumours of remote, natural days.

Two young lovers looped under one light coat

Run in the rain with nowhere to go.

The music plays and the sun still shines.

Cocooned in our crowded doorway,

Eyes flowering, we shed our cares

And tremble on the edge of dance.

Flight freshens in the soul

And the strangest greenness grows.

But the boisterous bacchants move on,

Their fading drums, timbrels and shouts

The sighing sound of the softening rain

Pattering out.

And the people dispersed from the portico

Forgetting already the faint refrains

In the gutter music.

When Dionysus dances through his realm

In the rousing rhythms of the rains

Do we drown with the dolphins in the sea

Or allow Acetes to wake?


Eoin Meagher has been "doing" literature for almost all the 52 years of his life: reading it, writing it and for 25 years, teaching the reading and writing of it. He comes from Ireland, but has spent 20 years in France, Ukraine and Germany doing literature. In Ukraine he added editing it to the list when he cofounded and coedited a trilingual literary journal. He has now returned to Ireland with his 4 year old son and partner, reduced his hours of teaching literature and thus increased his hours for writing it, and to do some subsistence organic gardening. His recent book, The Curse of Onegin, includes a selection of his poems and stories. For more information you can visit his website.

Author's note

I wrote this poem many years ago in Kiev, Ukraine. It was inspired by exactly the events described: a sudden, summer downpour during which a group of strangers sheltered in a doorway. Everyone was smiling and joking in an unwonted manner and I felt as if the shower had effected a transformation, both physically in the street scene and mentally or spiritually in us. In the poem, this has translated itself into a visitation by the god Dionysus or Bacchus and his fellow revellers, the Bacchants. Later, on reading some of the stories and poems in Carmina, I decided that this poem suited well the magazine's philosophy. It shows how myths continue to offer means of understanding our experiences and especially our more ephemeral or less quantifiable ones.