Saturday, October 14, 2017

Circe (Odyssey part 6)

The worst of them, swine. The best, swineherds. That scapegoating species, man. Blame me, blame me; I only hold up the mirror. Truth serum (a little wine). They have seen it themselves, in themselves and in others. But it’s what I’m best at, showing them what they already know. Wine, swine. Wallowers in self-pity, delusion. Put a pretty name on it, then; call it desire, if that makes it seem noble. You are your own lost cause. You could choose to avoid this island, but no.

[do you know gentle]
one leaf at a time
these last days

The Trouble with Immortality (Odyssey part 5)

What does one do for eternity? One grows bored with ambrosia, one’s own powers, getting everything and everyone one wants. All desires fulfilled means no desire can be fulfilled. So every immortal adopts a petty project. Turning sailors to swine. Helping one single traveler find his way home. Tormenting that traveler. And tens, hundreds, thousands of mortals die as a consequence, but that’s the way it is with mortals, always needing to prove to themselves that they are mortal. Each other’s image: petty, swinish, noble, lost, searching for that desire true enough to be truly worth all one’s time.

October night
the stars come down to join
the geese in the pond

Friday, October 13, 2017

Odyssey part 4

Each memory is shaped by the moment of its recollection. It was not a man; it was a monster. The monster was huge. Huge, with one eye. Huge, one-eyed, ravenous for human flesh. Who is there to contradict him? He terrifies himself with the telling of it, but he gets to add all the clever things he now believes he did. This is the past, after all. A ghost, a shade. A first draft.

just a footnote now
the translator explains
your cleverest trick

Odyssey, part 3 (Penelope)


Cured myself of that sickness, memory. A different song each evening. A man strong and kind, the man I would happily have married had war not taken him away. Or, perhaps we do wed; a few brief months together. A loom on which to weave a day. Unweave it. Start anew. When I say he isn’t dead, I mean he never did exist. Unplait every strand. Knit a yard of fiction. Fabricate my story. Unpiece desire. I did not marry. I married no man.





Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why We Read the Odyssey, part 2

And then another island, this one inhabited by a kind, generous king who shrugs at dire prophecies. What is a prophecy, after all, but a prediction of the present: you will help or hurt someone, you will suffer for it, you will find yourself alone. While we have you here, Odysseus, tell us your story, spread your fame. You alone remain; the telling of your story is the one thing you control. Your words will tumble from the lips of bards for centuries to come. She was right, that goddess: you will be immortal.

even the moon
must rest —
the liar at dawn

Friday, October 6, 2017

Why We Read The Odyssey...

Storytelling and time — where there is story, time is insignificant. Past, future, an eternal now. Memory, prophecy, all one. The bard takes us to an island where a goddess has granted a man immortality, but the man grieves. His mind goes elsewhere, back and forth through the years that are no longer his. Who among us would give up all we have to live forever, remembering what we lost? But thanks to the bard, we are willing captives on this island. We ache to hear how the story will end. We wish it never would.



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thank You, Artists...

I spend many of my days trying to find new ways to get college freshman and sophomores to see that artists give us little moments of order and sanity in this random and chaotic world. That moment of order and sanity may be in the form of a poem, or painting, or dance, or photograph, or piece of music.

That moment may be one sentence of clarity in which the words seem to cooperate and do our bidding.

Thank you to all the artists out there. Thank you to the ones who give us reasons to see, reasons to try to understand—ways to see and ways to understand. When we lose one of you, we are reminded that chaos always wins, but art has the last and most enduring word/image/gesture/song.


crossing out
the word 'loss'
a light rises

crossing out
the word 'loss'
writing it neatly