Wordview 2020: Odysseus
by Joseph Fasano
"Odysseus" is inspired by the great, ancient story of its title character, who tries for many years to return home. The poem is a reflection on the long and often challenging path we take to become what we must, to become our truest selves.
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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.
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."See the collectionWatch the full Wordview 2020 playlist