I. The King's Doubts
For twenty years I stroked the golden thighs
of goddess-queens who came to symbolize
my futile search, the time away from love,
my Ithaca, and from the gods above.
This soulless seeker yet has found no rest,
not one great truth revealed, made manifest
of son or wife; my passage leaves no trace
except the etchings on my weathered face.
Cruel winds and women, blowing, both are wont
to lure and rule me, slow me, loathe and haunt
through surf and storms, this fair yet coarse corsair;
the gods in angry swarms bring on despair.
Tell me, Athena, does she truly wait,
rebuke the suitors waiting at the gate,
still burn for my return, my loss bemoan,
and does she yearn to sleep with me alone?
II. The Queen's Doubts
Calypso, Circe, witch conspirators,
he still is mine, refuses to be yours.
Attempt to peel him as an onion's peeled.
His inner core will never be revealed.
Take first the armor, then the iron chain.
Now feel his heart, it starts to beat again
against your breast, is this a test?
Can siren-whores by mighty Zeus be blessed?
And as the goddess-bitch her man explores,
"Resist, my King" Penelope implores,
hot wax into his burning ears she pours,
"Sweet onions must have harder, denser cores."
III. The Stage is Set
Ulysses wakens from his poisoned dream,
roused by his consort's anguished, angry scream.
Athena frees him from his lover's spell
and sends him home to give the suitors Hell.
She pulls the web down from the shrouded loom,
then paces slowly round her prison room.
The wolves prowl slow outside her bolted door.
Penelope escapes for one day more.
IV. The Homecoming
For more than twenty overwhelming years
the faithful wife has failed to veil her fears.
The scowling, howling suitors cannot wait,
require the queen to set a wedding date,
they have the bloody scent, the urge to mate.
Outside, a beggar staggers to the gate,
cries "Alms" and raps his cane against the door.
"Be gone" the doorman yells, his eyes explore
the face that waits outside the corridor.
Can it be the long absented warrior?
Now watch the king reclaim the dusty throne,
the measure taken of each howling drone,
the wolf pack grovelers lying pierced and prone,
the disemboweled hunks of flesh and bone.
V. The Reunion
The queen looks out and sees a stranger there
with bloody hands and shock of graying hair,
beholds the remnants of the callow boy
who left her twenty years ago for Troy.
Emerging from her former prison room
she leaves behind the shroud upon the loom.
She cuts the final stitch, the finishing thread,
forgets the witch and takes the king to bed.
The shroud unravels in a flood of tears,
as love, at last, reclaims the missing years.
(First published in Enchantments - 2018)