Drawn from The Odyssey of Homer, Book Ten
We sleep night after night
wherever we collapse. On the white sands
of the sea shore, or in the inland forest
of flowering trees, or even near the fountains
below the witch’s palace. But never, never
do we venture into the precincts she occupies.
Wine from her storerooms is abundant and we drink
day and night. Lithe maidens serve the wine
in a gracious silence, but we dare not touch them.
They appear to be very young and completely
at ease in their beauty. They may well be immortals,
like the witch herself. I saw some of my companions
stare at them imploringly, but never did even one
respond. Is this from innocence or cunning?
Myself I turn away if I catch my eyes fixed
on their serene faces and serene limbs.
Such promised happiness is not for mortals,
except for exceptional ones, like Lord Odysseus.
We only see glimpses of our lord, as he crosses
lanes between the interiors of the witch’s palace.
But I saw him just last week, staring imploringly
into sea and sky. Two maidens glided to him,
one on each side. The taller one whispered into his ear,
the other took his left hand and guided him gently
through a jeweled doorway. It was surely a summons
from that woman with such terrifying power over men.
How can she turn men into pigs? Her victims told us
they were grunting despite their human minds,
they were paralyzed at the threshold of Death,
and they strained their eyes to warn us,
but by then Lord Odysseus had subdued her
with the power of eros.Rumor has it that
Hermes is our protector, and Zeus above him…
This island is a perfect place, but
a perfection it is fatal to grasp.
So we bludgeon ourselves with fine wine,
as Elpenor did and we hope not to suffer his fate.
Whatever we do – feast, drink, lounge under the afternoon
sun, sleep or talk quietly – we do under a pall
of fear. When will Lord Odysseus return us to the sea?