Odysseus to Telemachus
By Joseph Brodsky
My dear Telemachus,
The Trojan War
is over now; I don't recall who won it.
The Greeks, no doubt, for only they would leave
so many dead so far from their own homeland.
But still, my homeward way has proved too long.
While we were wasting time there, old Poseidon,
it almost seems, stretched and extended space.
I don't know where I am or what this place
can be. It would appear some filthy island,
with bushes, buildings, and great grunting pigs.
A garden choked with weeds; some queen or other.
Grass and huge stones . . . Telemachus, my son!
To a wanderer the faces of all islands
resemble one another. And the mind
trips, numbering waves; eyes, sore from sea horizons,
run; and the flesh of water stuffs the ears.
I can't remember how the war came out;
even how old you are--I can't remember.
Grow up, then, my Telemachus, grow strong.
Only the gods know if we'll see each other
again. You've long since ceased to be that babe
before whom I reined in the plowing bullocks.
Had it not been for Palamedes' trick
we two would still be living in one household.
But maybe he was right; away from me
you are quite safe from all Oedipal passions,
and your dreams, my Telemachus, are blameless.
Somewhere I once read a contemporary poem narrated by Circe to Telemachus. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Anyone have any idea where I might find it?
This morning I very much enjoyed:
Today for my mother's birthday I am going to Mount Vernon with my husband and kids, my parents and both my uncles. Last night we had dinner with all of the above, plus my father's aunt and uncle. The last time I spent any time with all these people in the same room was at my wedding, where I was notably distracted by about a hundred other people; before that, it was at my grandmother's funeral. And before that...I can't even remember actually. So it's actually quite nice having all this family around, though it's too bad for my kids that my father's brother doesn't have his son with him on this trip.
Will reply to the dozen e-mails I am late on tomorrow!