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THE DRAFTING OF ODYSSEUS

And so it is war.
And so they come for Odysseus, the stern-hearted recruiters:
They come to hold him to his oath.
And find him thus:
Ox plowing with ass, hand
Airing salt to the furrow.
His eyes puzzle shadows from the sky. His laugh is brilliant.
Half tongue, half spit, he speaks, he says, says he:
"Five leagues of questing rule my turtle's foot.
Nine stars have quelled their brewing in my corn.
Yet shall I gainsfoot the sparrow,
Or nary down the stockings of her desire?"
Then Palamedes takes Telemachus from his crib
And rocks him with a whisper to the catch
Of breaking air.
The boy falls squalling to the earth.
The furrow's keel plows toward his death.
And then Odysseus, his strategy thus broken,
Hauls his team to sanity,
And halts.
And gathers up his infant son,
To join his weeping.

Copyright © 2003 Hugh Cook

Picture of front cover of ARC OF LIGHT poetry collection by Hugh Cook.

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