Why doesn’t the story mention poor Penelope,
alone raising crops and children side by side in a field?
Or when Odysseus finally does return,
why is there no mention of her niggling suspicions,
as loud as sirens, that her husband wasn’t lonely
at all on his trip? He must have been calling out
three womens’ names every night, while she lays
beside him knowing he’s betrayed her.
Why does the story end just before Atlas’s
unavoidable stints in rehab? Or before the ink
of unworthiness stains Noah’s sons? A lifetime of not
measuring up to their father, the Chosen.
Their only redemption is to re-save the world.
Penelope, Atlas, the three sons of Noah
knew the heroes of their stories didn’t ask
for their labors. To them, the world’s heroes
were just Husband, Soldier, Father
doing what they were told:
Complete twelve impossible tasks. Yes, sir!
Hold the world up. Do I have to?
Build an ark! All right then.
None of them showing a glimmer of heroism
till arms raised them up above the crowd,
pushed them up on a plinth, and validated their courage.
On another day, these heroes—Odysseus, Prometheus, Noah—
would be described as pathologically in the wrong place
at the wrong time. In another time, we’d find them
lying right next to us during the tornado:
face-down in the bathtub.
Our belongings mangled together, spinning
above our spines. And afterward?
When the small-town newscaster finds them
wandering the rubble and balances a microphone
in front of their stunned little smirks,
they find themselves saying things
even they don’t believe. I’m no hero.
(I am!) Anyone would have done the same thing.
(No, but I did.) There’s not one single special thing
about me. (Look at me! I am special.)
That is, until the newscaster walks away,
and the man pulls the camera from his shoulder,
cursing his bad knee, the poor cell phone reception,
a bad night’s sleep. Those of us watching realize
our heroes are just as surprised by their bravery
as the rest of us suckers.
And what nobody sees a few hours later,
is the Hero slouching in line at the grocery store
buying walnuts, Band-Aids, and vodka, having left
the wives, the laborers, the sons
to clean up and rebuild the town.