One of Odysseus' men, becalmed on an island:

                   not long after that
Still praying for an easterly breeze
         I was bathing in the stream
When a fat eel showed its head
                   through the stones
                        on the verge
Just downstream from me

I moved (with the flow)
Towards it (a prize
I had not tasted
       in years)

As it came
Next to my hand
I recoiled as my eyes
         (hungry for home
              and the eel traps
   that fed us each week)
Finally recognised it as
                      a snake
Longer than my arm

Climbing the bank
I was met by our augur
Who hastened down with his knife
                     beheaded the thing
                 to witness two frogs
             emerge from the cut
And hop away uninjured

Which revealed to him
      (myself sworn to secrecy)
That we would leave this place alive
                but only after emerging
                     slick and contrite 
                 from the stricture
Of our tormentor’s maw

As with most divinations
This Truth (eventually)
                        came true
As soon as it was no longer
Or desired

(January 2022)

Odysseus, alone with Kalypso, after a hard night's reminiscing about Troy:

                            my hostess
Sends the servants from the room
(I know they clamour by the door
                         whether waiting
                            for titillation
                       or command
                    I know not)
Am I due
             strong words
On my behaviour
In respectable

Or allusions to the gratitude
Any other man so far from home
Deserted by both his men and fate
Might think to lavish on his benefactor
Especially one as powerful and (yes)
                           beautiful to the eye
                          as she clearly is

She pushes still for marriage
Despite her persistently
                    flat belly

I cannot refuse her
For much longer
                my excuses
Have ranged from ingenious
                      to humorous
Into the commonplace
Of an already married couple
Too used to completing
Each others’ words
To bother much
About new

She lays back the sheets and lamb fleeces
(the nights here are cold)
Climbs under them
Watches me undress
In the light of the last candle
(I pull in my stomach and remember
to stow my tunic on the stool)

Before I snuff out the taper
I see the tear in her eye
Glister in its final

(September 2021)
Odysseus', inside the Wooden Horse, parked outside the gates of Troy and surrounded by perplexed Trojans:

The most memorable sneeze I ever heard
Was at the court of a Theban noble:
We had been patiently explaining
                  the gravity of his position
    (surrounded and about to be filleted)
Decorated with the deepest heartfelt marks
                                       of respect to his dignity
                                  (the men were tired of sieges
                                            and Achilleus was away)
When he declared that he would not surrender
Until the Gods sent him a clear sign
That so was their will

Just as he spoke
A feaster on the other side of the hall
                       let loose the loudest sneeze
                                                    I have heard
                                                     before or since
                                  (apparently in Thebes)
Is taken as a token from the Thunderer
That the Lord's request is answered
  in the affirmative
And so
    he promptly surrendered

I mused (to Menelaus it was) later
That if the man had instead let forth
                                 a thunderous fart
It could have been seen as misdirection
                 from the Lord of the underworld
We might have still been camped outside his walls
Which Menelaus thought rather blasphemous

And I whispered this brilliant anecdote
                          (that you will hear in no
                       God-inspired bard's song)
                                        to poor Anticlus
                                (tenderly and softly
                                      as to a lover)
As I wrapped my legs around his
                       pinned his arms
            pinched his nostrils
And clenched his mouth
   until his own sneeze
Died along with him

(March 2021)

Glimpsing a future after work
Alone in a little room with screens full of apps
Watching for contact notices to flash in from the right
Streaming any music I want
It is raining
The Cockatoos are agitated
If I leave will I be policed on my way to shop
In the meantime I could garden
If it would stop raining
My tea is cold
Dave Matthews playing Gravedigger

(April 2020)

It is 8.15am
20 minutes late into town
In a train affected by wiring
                      melted at Berowra
Red sun choked with dust and smoke
Recirculating with each Northerly
That smell of resin and cooked
                  break pads
It will not rain
The news is fire
The same as yesterday
           orange suits
Labour through
Charcoal stubble fields
Out of windows
As the wind picks up
They say
    it won’t rain
Until February and
That will be too late
(January 2020)
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