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Leaving Circe


“You,” said Circe to Odysseus come
To do battle with her magic
And retrieve his men from her handiwork
By which she had taken some liberties with their forms,
“Dissembler, you’ve been expected."

"You," said Circe to a lordly wretch, his heart in his mouth
At the sight of his fellow travellers brought so low,
And yet, here he was stifling his rising laughter,
"I know you're the apple in the eyes of the gods,
But think twice before you think to get the best of me."

A glittering of light in his eyes. She continued:

"Promise you pleasures, give you a break
From the wrack and pain of your mortal lot,
And you fall for the trick: wine and caresses lose you your minds.
And you wonder why women hold men in secret contempt?
Then again, we women, we tire, too,
Of all the ways that you would have us.
What recompense? Sporadic pleasure, a brief interlude
In the toil and pain—Thank Zeus I have a witch’s arts—
Such a bore, don’t you think, that we meet like this,
Each the hostage of the other?
So you’re the intelligent one.
How do you like my menagerie?
How it twitters, whines, gesticulates.
Are you thirsty? Try a cup of this—“

Circe’s ploy transparent, Odysseus replied: :

“The leaf I just now chewed shall spare my senses
The poison in your honeyed draught.
Your honeyed words? They’re nothing to me.
But yes, I’ve sometimes wondered it: why,
Why spurn the likes of you for death and a mortal wife
Who has all my faults on her mind?
Perhaps because she’s all I know, really,
That and the treachery of men and the sea,
You deities extra degrees of difficulty.
My pleasures? They are a swallow of my own vintage,
My cheese, the goodly scent of my wife’s armpit.
The sight of my old father, my hunting dog—
Yes, come to think of it, my hunting dog—“

Circe, seeing it was hopeless, interjected: “Yes. Delightful. How good for you.
There's nothing for it then but to reverse my charm,
And pretty beastliness return to wretchedness,
You and your playmates free to go,
Subject to your destinies— “

And she with a smirk offered up
Famed Odysseus her scented cheek.
He, without ceremony, sniffed and kissed it.
Yes, it would seem he was dismissive,
Waving his see you around while showing his men -
Besotted sailors still, blinking in a sudden onrush of light -
The way out of their terrible dream.
Greeks went for their boats.
As if they’d learned something.
As if they ever would.

 

 

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