Michael Steffen: “Book Report”

 Book Report
 I’m such a slow reader   
 that I began The Iliad shortly after 
 the Trojan War, and today—
 bloodshot and squinting 
 in the thin light of my desk lamp—
 I finally turned its six hundred, sixtieth 
 dauntingly thin page, and read, with exhaustion, 
 that gorgeous last line, Thus they buried Hektor, 
 tamer of horses. Christ, I can’t wait 
 to plow through the sequel!  
 As if the names weren’t hard enough—
 Iphegenia, Clymenestra, Agamemnon,
 Astyanax—all ideas of love and law 
 seemed to count for nothing.  
 Almost everyone died for the sake
 of the gods’ desires and a foolish dispute
 among men—two armies whaling on each other,
 while Achilles played blanket burrito 
 in his tent, then carved a murder canyon 
 through the Trojans. Finishing Homer’s epic
 was an odyssey in itself. 
 I’ll never get back the years 
 spent slogging through its plot,
 a page or two at a time, tacking forward,
 then circling back on a dactylic tide, 
 a ship lost in the fog. How good it felt 
 to finally glimpse the ending’s rocky cliffs, 
 a coastline vaguely familiar, family and friends 
 standing at the edge of the last page,
 waving me home. 


Michael Steffen‘s fourth poetry collection, Blood Narrative, has just been accepted for publication by Main Street Rag Press. His work has recently appeared in Chiron Review, The Chestnut Review, and The Comstock Review. Michael is a graduate of the MFA writing program at Vermont College and currently lives in Buffalo, NY.

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