Even Odysseus Yearns

A poem inspired by the Odyssey
copyright 2001 by Tracy Marks
(Torrey Philemon of Ancient Sites)


I, wanderer, warrior,
Strategist, explorer,
Inventor of schemes which conquered Troy,
Outwitting even Poseidon's one-eyed son.
I, who enchanted goddesses
But escaped their grasp,
Could not be seduced by Sirens,
Tied to the mast of past longings, heard another's song,
Saw another's face,
The silky black tendrils of her hair weaving through the tapestry of my thoughts.

Penelope, are you more than memory?
In my dreams I become your loom,
You ravel and unravel my hopes.

Are you the Penelope I knew or have you too forgotten,
Foundered, as I did in that mad mad war, in these madder wanderings,
And even now in the wonderings of my tide-tossed mind.
Penelope, do you wait for me?
What have I lost in this world of brawn and manly prowess,
Where women are goddesses or slaves,
Above or below me,
Where human hearts dare not yearn
For what they cannot claim or reclaim?


In the mist I see Penelope in her garden,
Watering the blossoms of tomorrow,
Penelope in her room winding the warp,
Twisting the skeins of yesterday,
Letting slip through her fingers year after year, the colors of the seasons.

Am I then in love only with memory?
I, the wily Odysseus, humbled by wisps of dreams
Waking me at dawn to stare at the rising tumescent sun swollen on the horizon,
Behind me always.
But only in the dusk of this vast western emptiness,
Lies the warming call of home.

Penelope,
Must memory alone sustain me,
Or do you live outside my mind,
Daily scanning the craggy shore of Ithaca
Peering across that fog-gray desolation,
Weaving into your woolly nights the foam of this churning sea,
Waiting for me?


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