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Five Sonnets to Dionysus

Updated: May 24, 2023

M. J. Ris



Standing in his kitchen, he and I, I’d been thinking for days: write it today. But each and every form stayed vague to me in which I could pour the simplicity

of when he played piano, hummed along or of when he embraced me on his couch and kissed me, oh so quietly and long. So I simply kept living in the now.

But now, he’s slicing ginger for my tea and puts it in my thermos for the train and while the smell is spreading like the steam

I see the light, gilded yet sobering behind him, which – of course, it had to be – reveals the poem slumbering in me.


I hesitate – better not speak my mind.

I do not want to be a world creator for someone might disappear from sight. ’Cause how d’you tell them that it’s over, later?

Because in them that dead love resurrects when you happen to see them passing by they ask you how’ve you been and how is life with your new boyfriend – boyfriend, yeah… I guess.

This is exactly why I was so vexed that he told me his thoughts on Character. ’Cause now he’s underlined all of the text,

he has appropriated every print. There’s no more room in it for what I think: he’s there on every page, between the ink.



From our rendez-vous, it’s this I learned: silence is mutable. See: the clerk who copies his own calendar, returns in different silence from and to his work.

And see: a student reading Character. Who knows if fate will grant us once again a journey like this, quiet and contained. And hear: the as of yet illiterate child.

I knew it when he hurried to the train without a kiss goodbye. Slowly but plainly I looked and saw the station left behind

and no one cast a glance along the line. Loudly the silence said: ‘It couldn’t be, don’t go expecting more kissed poetry.’


Dennis. Damn it, it’s been over a year and still I suffer all this lunacy. It seems this god of sorts has an idea for me; the grave will grant tranquility

no doubt, if anyone should read these verses. I’ll admit: everything I did was insane.

The enthousiasm I used for his name was way too much; he was only one person –

And yet, the poems he inspired in me made him another thing entirely. No wonder Laura kept herself removed

and Cynthia lay with another beau: one single glance subjects to poetry. What else is there a poet then can do?


A word transfigures. He said “summer fling” and I – how could I have been so wide-eyed – didn’t realize We was created in July. For me, till then, it’d been another thing.

Just so, it’s only after love you hear – the lyrics marred and maimed by your ideas – how every song describes your very own sorrow, deaf as you were to its tone.

His name, then. I’d not have been so fucking menaced by him, had I not known etymology. That much is certain. Then he’d just been Dennis.

But now I have invoked him – people are so nosy. He is all that can be read. With him, what all that I wanted did succeed.


M. J. Ris (1998) is studying Greek and Latin Language and Culture at Leiden University. He is a poet, writing coach, editor and amateur actor. Alongside his studies he is also currently a contributor to the Receptions of Antiquity project, for which he charts classical receptions in Dutch poetry.

Image: JONVOBI is a freelance illustrator who experiments with different mediums such as tattooing, painting and printing.

Translated by the author and Fannah Palmer. Read the original Mamoetje in Dutch here.



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