Making Sense

Linda Ankrah-Dove

(pace Homer and Bob Dylan)

 

If Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife,

had succumbed at last

to one of her persistent suitors

and made love just like a woman

 

and if Telemachus, ready in his wool fleece

to leave the farm and seek his missing father,

had just stayed home on Ithaca

to guard the family treasures

and his mother—

 

and if Odysseus, returning home at last,

had surprised his Penelope in bed

with the most urgent of the lovers,

he would have yelled at her, “But —

that ain’t me, babe!

 

And then, he would have asked the Gods,

How many roads must a man walk down

before you call him a man? But the Gods were silent.

So Odysseus shrugged his Subterranean homesick blues

off his broad shoulders to wander again

just like a rolling stone

over wide, flowered meadows.

 

He made straight for his favorite Siren

who tempted men to disaster with her alluring music.

This time, though, Odysseus would challenge her.

Play a song for me, I’m not sleepy,

and there’s no place I’m going to.

She kissed his lips with honey-sweet.

But then—just like a woman—invited him

to early breakfast with her latest boyfriend.

 

The hero’s soul spilt hot tears at the cheeky triflings

with his manhood by two feisty females in a row.

But then he shrugged again and sighed, What will be will be,

the times they are a’changin’.

 

Still obsessed and humbled, he would have needed

proof for all rainy-day women that he was indeed a hero,

famous as any pop-star would ever be.

So twice-betrayed Odysseus sailed back

to the murderous straits where

Scylla and Charybdis ever lay in wait.

 

This time, though, before Scylla could grab his six brave men,

Odysseus wrestled the she-monster to the ground

with deft pankration moves he’d learned in Sparta.

Then he grabbed one of her unhuman heads—

though, patrician as he was, he boxed her only gently

and put her canine nose just a little out of joint.

 

But with Scylla struggling in his arms, Odysseus’s mind

was blowin’ in the wind. He forgot to heed the waters

where the seething, swirling whirlpool of Charybdis waited.

Too late, he heard her sexy gurgle,

I want you so bad.

 

The monster kicked his ass with one tough, spiky tongue,

spewed salty spit into his eyes. The hero’s big body toppled.

Many-jawed Charybdis swallowed him head-first.

Her throat bulged as she gulped down his flesh and bones.

Her growling gut was the last voice Odysseus, the hero,

ever heard. From its depths it sang a rumbling dirge:

It’s all over now, Babe.

 

So, if the life-stories of Penelope, Telemachus and Odysseus

had been different, Homer would have had no choice

but to retitle his great epic and find another human hero

to lose his wife, his son, his home, his way along the path.

And then—against all odds—(the bard ever was an optimist),

to triumph over the lesser gods and nature.

 

Homer would update his epic, a fresh take on a familiar tale.

to ensure it speaks to us today. But the life of modern man is still

like a shadow that he’s chasing on a jingle jangling morning.

It’s a trip to slurp ice-cream one day and get blind drunk on gin the next.

It’s a journey that’s risky and unpredictable, though

we all chase our freedom in the shadows of the hills and hollows

along the way to our final, predetermined destination


About the Author

Before the poetry bug struck her, Linda Ankrah-Dove was privileged to work as an economist and sociologist in developing countries all over the world. A decade ago, she founded First Monday Poets in her new home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and more recently, gained her cross-genre MFA in poetry. Her early poetry, 2007-2018, featured in her Borrowed Glint of Jade, and she has also published poems in the Virginia Literary Review, EchoWorld, several Bridgewater International festival anthologies, MonthstoYears, PoetryXHunger, DC Trending, and the anthology, Written in Arlington. Her poem won first prize in the 2021 Shenandoah Green Earth Day Poetry Contest. The poet currently has a second full-length poetry manuscript out for consideration by several publishers and is more than halfway through organizing a third manuscript.