Homer, Distracted, Sings in Astoria
(Blackout, July 2006)
We were quiet, the patrols
unnecessary. No one gouging
the price of ice. Neighbors checked
on the invalid, haunted their stoops
in the dark. Even the shopkeepers lowered
cream melted, the milk turned,
the fish began to reek. We weren’t
frightened, knowing this is how it will begin
to end when it ends. Meekly. Returning
to the elements for relief. Water. Wind.
Pray but dread the fate determined
by men. No need to go further
than this. So it ends, the city not yet
sacked, not burning.
Homer Attempts the Next Epic
(Gulf Coast, May 2010)
Quiet your limbs, Hyperion.
The wild wrath of your
flailing slaps breath from our lungs,
addles the clearest thinking among us.
The waters glints, threatening
combustion. We are not
capricious, knowing one stray crack
in the siphon will rout our reclaimed
asylum: power. Does that smack
of hubris? When Prometheus stole
fire from Zeus, were you, like your upstart
king, enraged? The few prophets left
cite omens of anger, but they also suffer
Cassandra’s bane. Tonight I walk
among the exhausted, hunting
breezes that recall wine-dark sea.
I dream of a hero sailing
the currents, his black ship raising
spray from ancient depths. Beneath
the burning stars, streetlights like embers,
I invoke a rescued dawn and I sing.
Poetry bears witness. History is best documented not by scholars or journalists or writers of textbooks, but by poets and artists in all of our enraged or fascinated or seduced subjectivities. We tell the truth to change the truth, not to capture it and display it under glass.
Michele Battiste’s first full-length collection, Ink for an Odd Cartography, was released in 2009 from Black Lawrence Press. She is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Slow the Appetite Down (Spire Press, 2009). Her work has recently appeared on Verse Daily, and in Beloit Poetry Journal, Mid-American Review, The Laurel Review, and Barn Owl Review among other journals.