Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mutatis Mutandis

I continue making changes to my little poem, and adding stanzas, playing with images, having fun. I am glad the poem is still in the fun stage of development. Having fun is usually the briefest period of composition.

I have tried to take the edge off the ego, somewhat, and I am begining to feel my way more affectionately toward the characters. I have tried to hint that Ulysses initial crudeness at the beginning is the result of captivity with Calypso--trauma--not any contempt he has for Penelope. I am not sure if this comes across. There are plenty of details to come.

I really have to pick up a copy for Fagles's translation of the Odyssey and read it again. It has been a few years since I read it last and my memory of events is a little fuzzy. Anyway, here are today's changes...

Canto I

Now, as a respite from Reality,
The humdrum horrors one might call a Life,
I shall return to the fictitious me—
Like old Ulysses. Won’t you be my wife,
Dear reader, patient, like Penelope?
I come—exhausted—from the arms of strife:
I’ve just spent seven years inside a cave,
The plaything of Calypso. A love slave

Is not the life for me. At 59,
Making love is too hard on the knees,
And you must monitor intake of wine,
If you are going to perform. Please,
Penelope, leave that alone. I’m fine.
Please realize great adventures on the seas
Can leave a sailor—well—I won’t say limp—
But—for seven years I lived on shrimp,

Raw oysters, clams, and Lobster Thermidor—
Foods rich in zinc—a common chemical.
I do not know what oysters use it for—
I’ll merely mention it’s available
In pills, at the General Nutrition Store.
Calypso used it for cholesterol.
She liked to think of men as her dessert—
And careful preparations never hurt.

Calypso’s kitchen—her exotic flair
For honey and hot wax—had its romance,
But lust will form a crust in one’s chest chair.
I’m not sure love stood much of a chance
Between us. No. Nymphs do not declare
Affection for a pair of underpants,
Like these, I haven’t worn for twenty years.
You have stained my skivvies with your tears.

Don’t cry, Penelope. Have some champagne.
This glass is a great improvement on the shoe
I used to drink from. I am so ashamed.
The things that cruel Calypso made me do—
Every word she uttered was profane.
She was like garbage, when compared to you,
My dear—Penelope—my darling wife.
I’m lucky I escaped her with my life.

Penelope, I’ve something to discuss.
I have been thinking of retirement—
Abandoning the huge, Homeric fuss
For something less—violent. I’d be content
To be a school custodian, drive a bus,
Pay taxes, pay the butcher, pay the rent.
Shall I say, “Sayonara,” to the port,
And to my men—though in some Eastern court

A eunuch’s eyebrow is bound to be raised?
You may be mocked in Athens. And in song,
I’ll be immortalized as the milkmaid
Who is discovered in a leather thong
Behind a big bull, spying. I have prayed
For guidance from the gods—prayed hard and long,
And Heaven has been silent. I am still
Ulysses—king of Ithaca. I will

Not live forever. Yes, much earlier,
We should have had this little conversation.
In retrospect, too much may be too clear
To men involved in the affairs of any nation…
Wasn’t Telemachus’s hair much curlier,
And lighter, when I left? He’s changed. Our son.
Not only taller. He smiles like a stone.
How will he handle sitting on my throne?

Would you consider him self-reliant?
Do dingy diplomats command his ear?
“Son, nobody could blind a giant
Like Polyphemus with a proper spear—
Let alone a broomstick. Son, the science
Here is clear: men die.” I want to hear.
I want to know. I had hoped for a sigh
Of satisfaction when he learnt I didn’t die.

Yet, all he seems to do is look at me
As if I were a large museum piece—
An amphora—a piece of pottery
Dredged up from somewhere after centuries.
He studies me with curiosity:
Not as his father—but a man with fleas
You try to pity, briefly, till his smell
Begins to catch up with your nostril.

No comments: