A Homeric Hymn
There is a picture a friend snapped of me
drunk atop Dun Laoghaire’s Martello tower.
I’d been overseas for months, my hair
grown into an Atlantic storm, the ferry
from Holyhead lolling like the tongue
of an oracle in a Howth Head pub.
The stinging rain was cold and blinding.
Passengers tossed their salvation into bags
as the gods prevailed against them.
It seemed to me a ten-year crossing.
On the last ferry in for two weeks,
with three-story waves hammering our ship,
I thought about my father and his vision,
how he’d seen so many destinations
and still stood restless whenever we left,
jingling his car keys in our front hall,
and declaring how he hungered in his heart.
My father’s name was Homer. He’d tell me
stories of towns in Iowa, of factories and jokes
of a rough-hewn men, of cities and habits,
and steaks bigger than the sun, and remind me
if he was ever gone too long, I should
look for him in a litany of places where men
live, and toil, and fight from habit for a home.
Agony is life, he’d say, a competition
in the soul where someone misses
the last flight out but nonetheless comes home.
For all Joyce did he never won a prize,
losing an eclogue to John McCormack,
the tenor of the times against him.
Winning isn’t everything, he said. No Nobel
Prize, no noble estate. The hand that wrote
Ulysses, he’d recoil, did other things as well.
Hesiod defeated Homer in a singing match,
the Works and Days, and the dull Theogony,
were stories where everyone knew the end
whereas Homer could only sing of imaginings
down to the final moly-drop of Powers.
Poetry is never as good in its time as poetry
that sails in search of life, wise as an owl,
both singer and song, and becoming a question
of mystic calling only great whales answer.
Bruce Meyer is author or editor of 64 books of poetry, short fiction, flash fiction, and non-fiction. He has had three national bestsellers in Canada, and was 2019 winner of the Anton Chekhov Prize for Fiction (UK) and the Freefall Prize for Poetry. He has recently been a finalist in the Bath Short Story Prize, the National Poetry Competition (UK), the Tom Gallon Trust Fiction Prize, the Carter V. Cooper Prize, and the Thomas Morton Prize for Fiction. He lives in Barrie, Ontario, and teaches at Georgian College and Victoria College at the University of Toronto.