Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2020: Odysseus

Think of the moment before the moment.

Before recognition. Before the nurse saw

the boar’s scar coursing down his thigh

where the world had first entered him

in the forests of childhood. Before

Penelope. Before his battle for her heart.

Think of his moment alone on the shore,

his sailors running up to the village

where girls stood wringing spices

from their hair. Think of the gods saying to him

you do not have to praise ruin anymore;

you do not have to praise what is lost.

How you imagine him is how you enter things.

He is kneeling. Or he is weeping. Or he is turning

toward the sea again, thinking of the great deeds

of the hopeless. Think of him lifting the sands

and touching them to his tongue, to see

if it is real. If it is home. If it is time. Think of the moment

before he knew he had stepped out of the myths

and into his life. Whether that means to you

that he would sing, or mourn, or be lessened.

And his patience when he rose up again

and took himself the long way

toward his kingdom, not knowing

if it had all changed, or if love

had lasted, or if anything can last.

Think of him as though he were your life,

as though you had sat waiting at a loom

for long, dark years, weaving and unweaving

what you are. Think of your life returning to you

with eyes that had seen death. And whether

you would look away if you saw him

pausing a moment among the gardens

and the horses, listening to the song

of each thing, the common things he had forgotten.

Think of him hearing your voice again,

hiding his face in his hands

as he listened, hearing a music

of losses and joys, pestilence

and bounty, a beauty that had prepared

a place for him. And whether you would have him

be changed by that, or return

to what he was, or become

what he had come this way to become.

Recording provided as part of Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020. Used by permission of the author.

Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2020 Winners

Welcome to the Poetry Archive Now! WordView 2020 Collection. For the first time the Archive opened its doors wide to poets from around ...

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Joseph Fasano

Joseph Fasano is the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of four collections of poetry and the novel The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020). His honours include the Cider Press Review Book Award and The Rattle Poetry Prize. His writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Yale Review, American Poets, and other publications and anthologies. He teaches at Columbia University.


A special thank you to our WordView 2020 poets.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Imtiaz Dharker, says: “The hundreds of entries we received blew in to the Archive like a breath of pure, unpolluted air from all over the world, revealing something of the time we are living in, some telling it straight, some slant. It was exciting to check in to the Poetry Archive’s Youtube channel every morning and come upon one unexpected voice after another."

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