Teaching Homer to Eighth Graders
What appeals to them most is that Odysseus
was one horny guy
moving from goddess to nymph;
not that he kept his vision
of Ithaca like a flame in his gut.
And Telemachus – that wimp –
turned out to be okay,
he could have strung the bow
if his dad had let him.
Argos, on the dungheap, rolls
his eyes and dies,
joy in his doggy heart
when he hears his master’s voice.
And Eurylochus-–a fool to eat those cattle–
got what he deserved.
Nausicaa? An idiot
to let a naked man
from the bushes by the river
nearly hug her about the knees.
With what glee they read
the bloody battle in the hall.
How cool that Antinous
got it in the throat
and that Melanthius
was strung up on a brutal wall.
How far we’ve come when they begin
to feel the complications of return
to greening Ithaca, and kneel in the orchard
with Laertes weeping. The old guy
fooled by a son just beginning
the ship-wrecked journey home.
Reprinted from Yalapaloosa Review.
Alicia Hokanson’s poetry collections are Insistent in the Skin (Brooding Heron Press, 1993), Mapping the Distance (King County Arts Commission Publication Prize, 1989), and Phosphorus (Brooding Heron Press, 1984). She lives in Seattle and teaches at Lakeside School where she holds the Bleakney Chair in English.