Published on Academy of American Poets (

We Were All Odysseus in Those Days

A young man learns to shoot
& dies in the mud
an ocean away from home,
a rifle in his fingers
& the sky dripping
from his heart. Next to him
a friend watches
his final breath slip
ragged into the ditch,
a thing the friend will carry
back to America—
wound, souvenir,
backstory. He’ll teach 
literature to young people
for 40 years. He’ll coach
his daughters’ softball teams. 
Root for Red Wings
& Lions & Tigers. Dance
well. Love generously. 
He’ll be quick with a joke
& firm with handshakes.
He’ll rarely talk
about the war. If asked
he’ll tell you instead
his favorite story:
Odysseus escaping
from the Cyclops
with a bad pun & good wine
& a sharp stick.
It’s about buying time
& making do, he’ll say. 
It’s about doing what it takes 
to get home, & you see 
he has been talking 
about the war all along.
We all want the same thing
from this world:
Call me nobody. Let me live.


Copyright © 2019 by Amorak Huey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I’ve been writing lately about fatherhood and storytelling, about the language of being a parent, about the complex power of naming. Stories help us make sense of the herky-jerky trajectories of our lives, and narrative—as a way of giving shape to language—is essential to our species. This poem is mostly not about my grandfathers, but also it is about them both.”
—Amorak Huey


Amorak Huey

Amorak Huey is author of three books of poetry, including Boom Box (Sundress Publications, 2019).

Date Published: 2019-03-20

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