Back to the Wine Jug
In Back to the Wine Jug, Joe Taylor, author of the comic verse novel Pineapple, returns to the form with a tour de force of wit, erudition, and earthy imagination.
A novel in verse. News of the political turmoil and division in the living world above has reached even Hades. The shades there want to help as they can, and Lord Hades agrees to send a representative up to Birmingham, Alabama, accompanied by Diogenes, he who is ever searching with his lantern for an honest (wo)man. Victoria Woodhull, who once ran for President of the United States on a free love platform, gets chosen as the representative. But Lord Hades cannot be trusted, for he also sends up J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous director of the FBI who could never get communists out of his bonnet. These three meet up with Alonzo Rankin, an undercover detective, Dr. Eddie Truelove, a neurologist from UAB’s school of Medicine, and Judge Roy Bean Too, a politician who famously chases fourteen-year-old girls. Hoover and Bean concoct a plan to install a granite monument of God holding the Ten Commandments in every incorporated Alabama town. God is also waving a .45 automatic in his other hand. Woodhull and Rankin counter as they can, Victoria trying to spread the gospel of free love.
ISBN, trade paper: 978-1-944697-97-6, $18.95
Joe Taylor spent a good part of his life in Kentucky, where he earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy at UK. He worked as a waiter in West Palm Beach before moving to Tallahassee to earn his Ph.D. in creative writing.
| Excerpt From
Chapter One: the choice revealed
Herein, Shades inhabiting the underworld of Hades upheave over their living counterparts’ perfidy on earth above. Hoping to restore a modicum of political peace to their living progeny, they appoint one of their own to return amongst the living. The Greek Diogenes, in eternal lantern search for one honest man, announces that Lord Hades has chosen Victoria Woodhull, the proponent of free love who once ran for President of the United States. She will undertake this immense peace-making task. Dio’s somewhat faithful Doberman Pluto seconds the motion with a playful howl.
We open in a deep and cranky underworld
to hear Apple earbuds vibrate this fearful sound:
On earth above, such chaos hath unfurled!
So let us rise, aid our progeny, fix them aground!
“Send Abe!” some gave shout. “Send Plato!” cried others.
“Churchill!” wailed many. “Gandhi!” some did plead . . .
A lantern glowed. In aged hand, it hovered.
“Diogenes,” whispers came, taking seed.
All underworld eyes focused upon that glow,
all underworld hands splayed, open and ready,
all underworld ears pricked, ready to know
the choice of this searcher, infinitely steady.
From a dais, he coughed just twice, in preamble.
“Victoria,” he announced, brown Greek eyes a-blink. /
“That stuffy queen?” This dismayed reply gave amble
through red underworld grass whilst doubters sipped their drink,
ambrosia its name, more mickey finn
its fame. “No, no, not her. She’s much too much in snit
over Elizabeth’s longevity. Will it never end?”
Diogenes smiled and did his lantern bit.
“Woodhull,” he announced. /
“Who?” faces below shouted. /
“You’ve seen her.” D did a boy thing with cupped hands
at his chest. Females rolled their eyes. Who had doubted
this new next world would toss but the same? Angel bands?
Ha! Just sex-crazed old men in search of Viagra.
A pharmacist down here could attain a fortune. /
“She’s got brains! Gumption enough to stagger a
red state or blue,” D added, perceiving the tune
his antic hands had spurred. En masse, the females
exhaled: “Two millennia searching for an honest
man—at last, he’s willing to try us.” / “He wails
about no honest caps. Let him try a bonnet.” /
“Have you seen her? She’s awfully haughty.”/
“She ran for President before Clinton, Thatcher,
Meir were sprouted.” / “I heard that she was naughty.” /
“Yes, her free love, I heard it too.” / “Well, our rapture
gave end to that.” The ladies looked askance
toward the last speaker. “Well didn’t it?”
Their silent answers locked them each in trance.
Diogenes spoke wind with words bidding it—
their silence, that is—to stay: “She has her faults.
Of that I’m certain. Let the . . . woman
who hath none shift my choice into halt.”
He glanced about, playing the showman.
Nor a ruffle, nor a murmur, nor a cough.
“Well then, Victoria Woodhull it is.
Come. Gather. I’ll disclose directives from the loft
of ol’ Hades himself, our leader, that whiz.
“A-wooo!” D then howled. No sooner howled than done:
a Doberman of tawny hue ran to his side.
“Woof!” Pluto replied. Folk gathered for the fun.
D and his dogs always supplied a raucous ride.
D felt the great crowd below jostle his platform.
Then movement he spotted, distant, off yonder.
Persephone? Way early for her to perform.
Looked like some other crowd mustering. He wondered:
How very oft’ such crowds congealed above, then blundered.