I am a poet from New Jersey, which almost seems a contradiction in terms, but the state has an active and renowned artistic community. Having published more than 1,200 poems, many of which are ekphrastic, I have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and the Rhysling Award. My latest chapbook, Mind Over Matta (Flutter Press, 2015), is based on the creations of one of my favorite artists, Roberto Matta Echauren, a Chilean abstract surrealist.
The Odyssey: Abridged and Revisited
Oh glorious heroes
who answered the call to arms
for the sake of a woman
and a horny young prince.
To go to war for a woman
not your own, even one
who could launch a thousand ships
is to wage a war for the penis but not the soul.
Odysseus fought valiantly
and endured by his shield and wits
not knowing the consequence
of his victory would be in poetry alone.
They said it couldn’t be done
but he did it
in the belly of a horse--
foul odor and sweet victory
pillage, rape and plunder
the thunder of the gods
who watched with a wink and a nod
as mere mortals put asunder their lives.
No wonder Calypso fell in love
with the Man of Steel
and would never let go
come eternity or rust.
But in the end
she could never stay with him
or be betrothed
because her father, Atlas, shrugged.
On a good-hair day
Medusa was as beautiful as Helen herself
in her prime
on a bad- she was the devil in a Prada dress.
He had but a single eye In the middle of his face
and could see across the endless waves
but not the arrows from his left or right--
such is the importance of peripheral sight.
The sirens called
but no ambulance ever came
to rescue Odysseus and his men
from the music of their private parts.
Scylla and Charybis
To sink beneath the swirling sea
or founder on the rocky shoals
Odysseus chose the latter
for he could barely swim.
A fish out of water, so to speak,
is a hero who lived by his sword alone
without any flippers or fins
to guide him on his journey home.
When Odysseus crossed the wine-dark sea
he never expected Penelope
to wait so faithfully at her loom
without ever a card or a call.
Her suitors could barely empty their quivers
or excite a longing in her loom.
What a man Odysseus could have been
had he stayed at home to empty his.
Father and son reunited
husband and wife as one--
what a wishful conclusion
to a story as old as the sun.
The gods have withdrawn
to their mountain in the clouds
where they can play as children
with humans as their pets.
Odysseus a fat old man
with gout, BPH
in his trembling hands.
can no longer pull the bow
that defeated his enemies
at Troy and at Ithaca
while his queen preferred her loom.
Now you see it, now you don’t
the end of mythology and heroes
and beginning of doubt--
how soon we forget, how soon regret
the passing of empires,
heroes and poetry
as we face the uncertainty
of a world without gods.
©2017 Neil Ellman
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