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 is author of three books of poetry, including Boom Box (Sundress Publications, 2019).
Date Published: 2019-03-20
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/we-were-all-odysseus-those-days