Return, Odysseus

Look, Odysseus, husband dear
The war has been over for ten long years
(That makes it twenty since you went away)
Agamemnon has had time to return—
And get murdered—
And his son to run mad before the Furies
(Telemachus is jealous:
Orestes saw his father again)
You’re too clever to die, my love,
Your tardiness inexcusable—
You wouldn’t have, say, angered Poseidon
By attacking his son, or
Lingered on some fruitful island
Inhabited only
By some godlike tart,
Or got your men turned into pigs—
My bed has been empty for long, long years
You’re lucky the other princes aren’t cuter.

Your epithet is ‘sly’, the ‘crafty Odysseus’
But I think I might have you beat
While you ‘earned’ yourself trophies
And slept among spoils, and spoke
Among kings—and had people listen!
That’s where you beat me—
I’ve staved off more suitors
Than Troy ever had warriors
Spilled their hopes like so much blood
(And yet they keep coming)
Fooled them time and time again
With shows of mourning, and weaving
Of burial shrouds. Telemachus
Is sharpening his sword, so hurry up!
Your halls are ripe for a slaughter
I’m so tired of discovering
They’ve finished off my favorite wines.

O rugged king of rugged Ithaca
Your cleverness did not anticipate
That other men would fight to fill
The bed you made me
Or you’d be home already
You can’t be dead—you aren’t—
When you return, I’ll have you begging—
After some triumphant entrance
The lord returned to his long-bereft—
I will be as cold as marble
With the stone eyes of the goddess
(Who, somehow, takes your interests)
And have you bow before me,
Eyes full of burning adoration
That consumes your heavy weariness
And smoothes the stress-lines from your brow
And heals the wounds that Troy gave,
Heals the twenty years of longing.

We have lost our youths, my love,
But we still have our middle years
We’ll weather all our aches and pains
The creaking of our joints and bones
And though our hair is mostly grey,
We’ll have the pleasures of our bed
The tree-trunk bed you carved for me
I’ll melt from stone, you’ll hang
our weapons on the great hall’s walls
And all that’s left is tenderness—
And Telemachus will be happy
(Although he may long to slap you)
He has grown so much, my lovely
From the infant you turned the plow from,
The deed that packed you off to Troy—
It pained you so to leave, Odysseus
I thought you’d speed your way
To Ithaca on eagle’s wings
When you return, you’ll tell me of your
Troubles, adventures, the gods and monsters
You fought to bring us back together,
And I’ll share stories of the suitors
I tricked and tormented (though those boys
Certainly had brave persistence—I felt like
Hercules against the Hydra)
But until that future comes,
I’ll wait here for your return.

Maria Schrater is a second year Fiction major at Columbia College Chicago. She has previously been published in the Lab Review. Maria has an extensive knowledge of interesting but useless facts about ancient literature, and lives in Chicago with two actors and an ungrateful cat, Horatio Stormalot.

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