(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.