War Games: Demodocus Deposes from a Rocky Hill in Arcadia

… But still … The old gods were dependable.
They were even comforting in their horrifying playfulness.
Their glorious lunacy.

An island explodes as we have heard islands have done.
A great ship stands with its stone crew,
an obsidian monument to angry water games,
Phaeacia bound by insurmountable cliffs.

We declare the catastrophe an act of the gods,
or one of them or the result of a spat between two of them
or an all-out war amongst them.
Or a lunatic act of lordly revenge—

Spite writ cosmic on some poor lubber after he’s been fooled
into holding his head too high above the sheepfold.

Nobody blamed the gods for any of this, or not much.
Our part wasn’t to question.
Our part was to tell the story in a manner make grander the Grand—

Make something like wisdom out of Athena’s Night-taloned bitchiness.
Invent catastrophe from her diddling Odysseus.
Goddess of War and Wisdom?—
Athens is well endowed with her name and her duplicity,
and her step-child Plato.

Understand that none of the gods paid attention to subtlety
or a well-turned metaphor, especially if we were to invent
and re-invent as we sung along and did it fast.

Thera gets blown to dust, ash and flecks of drifting bone.
A drying blood spot here and there.
We don’t need to question.
The poet invents, grabs up his lyre and sings, and sings.

It was never our part
to worry about the general state of morality
and worry over what gods and heroes might have done
that we had better watch ourselves about,
or share the guilt with fellow sinners, or share any guilt, or sin.

Our dying was never so petty,
even the lowly among us, like poets.
Ours was to find a place in the cosmos of stories to fit it all in,
and then some.

It’s still the story that counts. Always.
Even for those of us who choose to stay in the rock-strewn outlands
above Tempe or Dorset or far Wessex
munching the simple joys of jujubes and popcorn,
the penny groundlings and our subterranean genius.

We vagabond wag-tongues are the interlocutors
between the gods and their mortal masters.
To remain human without the subversive suffrage of story
is to resign our souls to politics and hapless faith.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the North Woods of Minnesota and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He is the author of five books of poetry, notably Disordinary Light, and most recently Eumaeus Tends, based on the few lines of The Odyssey that are axial to our understanding of the power and complexities of love. A new book, a new experiment, Selenity Book Four appeared in February, 2017. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.