The last thing I perceive, my head thrown back
to quaff the dregs from one more cup of fate,
is interlocking curves of nymphs and fish--
the ceiling of my soon-to-be estate--
and now, too late, I comprehend the words
the ragged beggar cried before he slung
the arrow that, apparently, has pierced
my throat before the wine could touch my tongue.
A mark of inattentiveness, I guess,
to hear the crack of thunder from the skies,
to see the ragged wretch both string the bow
and make his shot, and not to realize
he’s favored by the gods. Laertes’ should
was not the only weave to be undone;
that crafty woman’s stratagem allowed
the magic maturation of her son,
for I recall, before the arrow struck,
the briefest glimpse of that once-weeping lad
all confident and manly there beside
the beggar, who could only be. . . his dad.
Yes, now I’m sure, the hero has returned
from twenty years a captive of the sea,
which means, upon resumption of his crown,
his first act was to swiftly skewer me.
I should be gratified, I guess—shoot first
the biggest threat, the leader of the crew--
but as my fit of knowing all expands
and opens understanding to my view,
I can’t help feeling that it never was
the power of Odysseus I served,
nor even his exquisite queen’s allure,
but something else by which my path was curved.
For what compelled my lifting of the cup
so carelessly with danger taking aim,
has also frozen time to forge the truth,
and guides my very thoughts about the same.
It’s not the gods, for even they must dance
the tune of that which brings us all to grief:
the singer, only, tames the monster Chance
to satisfy a favorite motif.