The Aftermath: A List

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.

 

Crossing Saint Clair

Fingers numb, Sadie ties
wolf skins to the pack
on the toboggan.

The river is finally solid.
She’s told she’s big enough
to toddle over ice.

She double-checks
her knots, picks up
the family hen, and steps

onto the margin between countries.

Morning, early August

I am under the bed
pretending to be hungry
and alone.
Windows wide open,
the walls expand,
the room is midsummer’s lung.
Carried in is the sound
of a snip and a trim–
my mother outside pruning the forsythia.
She hums, then dah-dah-dahs
a song with no lyrics.
I am under the bed
pretending to be a bear cub
in a carpeted cave
awaiting my mother’s return.

+++++++++++++++

My favorite part of this childhood memory is I don’t think my mom knew I could hear her singing. She isn’t one to sing in public. She is the main person I’m talking to when I’m creating a new post. It might make me sound like a mama’s boy, but it’s true.

I chose to write this as a poem to celebrate National Poetry Month. I think poetry gets a bad rap. I blame school curricula for teaching only the stuffy classics that are hard to relate to when you’re a teenager. And for teaching that there is only one way to interpret it and any other way means you ‘don’t get it.’ The truth is that poetry is just like fiction. There are voices that will stick with you and voices that you would rather skip.

Poetry is all around us: on the radio, in tv jingles and print ad campaigns. It’s all about using words creatively to make people feel differently after they’ve read your poem. That’s all. Shake some of that bad poetry mojo (if you have any) and celebrate Poetry Month:

Listen to other poems read by actors: Poetry Out Loud : Listen to Poetry.

Read the lyrics to your favorite song. Try not to hear the melody while you do 😉

Watch and listen to one of my favorite poets read his own work: