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Homer

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Schliemann is outside, digging. He’s not
not calling a spade a spade.
The stadium where the Greeks once played
used to stand on this very spot.
 
Each night, Penelope, operating
in mythical time, unspools the light
gray orb Schliemann has just unearthed. Come daylight,
her hands will restitch it. The suitors sigh, waiting.
 
And each night I’d watch as my hero curled
himself round home plate, as if he were going
to bat for me. And I’d hold my breath, knowing
a strong enough shot might be heard round the world.
 
One must imagine Penelope.
One must imagine Penelope happy.
One must imagine Schliemann excavating
the dugouts and outfields of Troy, carbon-dating
 
the box score stats and the ticket stubs
he pulls from the lurid dirt. He rubs
the remains of Achilles’s rage on his shirt.
What does not kill you can still hurt.

Penelope’s suitors are striking out,
one after another. Their sad swings and misses.
They can’t even get to first base. She’ll cut
the stitches once more, then blow them all kisses.

Odysseus won’t care that the orb is undone.
He’ll take a swing at it with all his might.
The ball takes flight. Odysseus takes flight.
It feels to Penelope like he’s been gone

since the dawn of mankind, but he’s already zoomed
round third and flies like an arrow toward home,
as the unearthly orb trails its guts in the air — 
the yarn fanning out like Penelope’s hair — 

not knowing yet whether to fall foul or fair.

Source: Poetry (February 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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Homer

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