Poem: Iliads and Odysseys

Iliads and Odysseys, Odysseys and Iliads,
they come and go, they came and went,
heroes and villains remembered together
through the repetitive chants
of the itinerant rhapsodists
who recited ancient histories
purportedly written by
a blind itinerant Ionic bard
about the fall of Troy
some five hundred years (or so)
before the bard was born
(so it was NOT an eyewitness account)
as if they were current events
to the assembled illiterati,
(the inability to read
was hardly the matter;
there were no lending libraries
and they couldn’t afford the scrolls:
reading was of little use to them)
telling them all about a war
that occurred a thousand years before
but no longer meant anything to anyone.

That was good for a week or two
of meals and cots, sleeping in barns
safely in out of the rain before
their welcomes were worn out
forcing rhapsodists to trudge on
to the next welcoming village or town.

In so doing,
the raconteurs emulated the
the travails of wily old Odysseus
as he wended his circuitous path
back home to Ithaca,
experiencing the same
unanticipated consequences
of the perils of traveling
around the ancient Occident

But now from this vantage point,
three thousand years later,
we review Agamemnon’s perfidy
Hector’s devotion and Achilles’ revenge
from a dispassionate distance
reciting Homer’s chants of wars
and lost and the perils of travel
without being able to infuse them with
the passions Homer wrote into the text
while a nearly blind itinerant poet
wrote a modern re-framing
of Ulysses’ old travelogue
all about a day
in the life of Dublin
from the safety of apartments
in Trieste, Zurich and Paris,
mixing past, present and future,
into a seriocomic kaleidoscope
of mixed-up jigsaw puzzles
from several different boxes
that sometimes fitted together
(because they used the same dies to
cut out the required number of pieces)
although the images often did not.

And now it’s my turn
to pick up the pieces
and redistribute them again
but it sometimes seems to me
that we’ve all been reduced to staring
through bathroom keyholes while
genuflecting down upon our knees
in an obscene simulacrum of prayer.

Iliads and Odysseys have come and gone,
centuries adding up into millennia,
without pause or let, as we sport our best
bibs and tuckers while begging at the gates,
but one continues to wonder whether
Icarus ever even heard what Daedalus said
when he warned his son against flying
too close to the sun or if he was too inebriated by
the freedom of flight to fret about death
as the Iliads and Odysseys came and went again.