A Few Seconds of Sanity

I am not a lover of poetry. I am not a lover of Garrison Keillor. I have, however, been taken in by The Writer’s Almanac podcast. It’s a daily show that runs about five minutes that’s sponsored by The Poetry Foundation and available on iTunes. Keillor reads a few bits of information about what happened on that particular day in literary history (so that I get my fix of information; everything I do involves gathering some information for later use), then reads a poem. I find myself listening to the podcast on my way home–either on the train or on my twelve-minute walk from the station to the house. There’s something about the tone of his deep, resonant baritone voice and the pace at which he reads that I find quite calming and soothing, especially after a day at the office. As a result, I’m hooked.

There was one poem that particularly caught my ear a while back, called “The Return of Odysseus” by George Bilgere. It is reprinted in full below, but to get the full effect I’d suggest you go to the link here and have Garrison Keillor read it to you. It should become obvious why I’ve become so enamoured of this particular work and the daily dosage.


The Return of Odysseus

by George Bilgere

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what’s-his-name.

And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

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