The Introductory Note
Odysseus was Re-Born in The Latter Half of The Twentieth Century.
He Listened to Rock’n’Roll as a Teenager—
though his Father Told him Not To—
Explored his Consciousness with Drugs—
and Wrote Poetry.
It was a War—
in his Mind—
to Save Beauty—
To Be Somebody.
That War was followed by Decades of a Struggle to Get Home.
Odysseus Would Own a Home—
but he Would Have No Sense of How to Get There—
Finding Himself Teaching English in a High School Classroom—
Teaching The Odyssey to Sophomores.
Teaching Sophomores Eroded Odysseus’ Grip on Everything.
His Wife Penelope Did Not Hear from Odysseus for Many, Many Years.
She Saw him Return Home from School Each Day.
That was All.
Those were The Decades of his Long Journey.
His Homecoming to Ithaca—
his Actual Retirement to his House After The Journey of Teaching—
Dissolved into an Episode of Drunkenness and Psychotic Delusion.
Some Said It was The Flowering of a Seed Planted in him, Long Before—
in The Days of The War—
The Days Inside The Horse—
The Days of Weapons-Grade Pharmaceuticals.
The War To Be Somebody—
Followed by Decades of Teaching The Odyssey to Sophomores—
Merged Myth and Wonder in Odysseus.
Long After The War To Be Somebody—
and After Decades of a Journey through The Sophomore Classroom—
The Warrior Returned Home.
The First Long Days of That Summer were Filled with Shouting—
and a Great Deal of Property Damage.
Odysseus was Trying to Return Home.
In The Modern Age.
The Universe was Expanding at an Accelerating Rate—
Making The Idea of Getting Home All but Impossible.
The Horizon was Perpetually Receding.
Home was Slipping Forever Beyond Reach.
Where Home Once was—
Only Television Remained.
Here was War by Other Means.
She had Already Endured The Decades of her Husband’s Absence—
from The Early Days—
The Hallucinogenic Years of The War To Be Somebody—
The Long Classroom Journey Home.
In This Homecoming—
in his War on The Television—
she told Herself—
Odysseus was Fighting to Remember Himself—
in a Universe that was Forgetting Everything.
Following The Harrowing Days of The Homecoming—
The Old Warrior Quarantined Himself in What he Called his Attic Study.
It was One Small, Crooked Room on The Second Story
of their Early Twentieth Century California-Style Bungalow.
Years of Writing Followed.
He Wrote Page after Page of Free/Prose/Verse.
That is What he would Come to Call The Writing.
Lines as Broken as The Modern Age.
Even The Logic of Writing Itself—
The Capitalization of Letters—
The Spacing of Syllables—
Began to Un-Ravel.
Though he Called his Youth ‘The War’—
and his Teaching ‘The Journey Home’—
he had No Name for Those Dark Years.
The Years of Writing in The Attic.
He Called Himself by a New Name.
Odysseus Called Himself Homer.
Two Volumes were The Result of that Confinement in that Attic World.
This is The First Volume.
a poet is one who tries to leave
and one who cannot leave
—Tadeusz Różewicz, “Who Is a Poet”
Jack London shows that bondage between two or more people is a good way of life.
—A sophomore paper
He Burrowed into his Scalp with his Fingernails—
then Pulled Himself back Upright at his Desk—
Inscribing a Few Words on The Page—
Pressing Down with The Pen—
The Old Man at The Desk Once had Been a Warrior.
The Pen Slapped Flat Against The Notebook.
Almost Forty Fucking Years of Teaching English to 10th-graders.
Riding a Sea of Sophomores—
Legs Adjusting to The Rolling Deck of a Classroom.
While His Wife—
Penelope Waited at Home.
Surrounded by Suitors.
and The Television—
Day and Night.
She was Alone.
Odysseus had Left her Alone—
with The Television Talking to her.
He Saw her Stretched Out on The Couch—
Trying to Occupy Herself—
Books and Magazines—
her French Magazines—
Paris Match, L’Obs—
so she would Not be Occupied by The Suitors!
Working The Newspaper Crossword as she Watched Television—
Conjuring The Written Words Hidden There.
And The Sudoku, too.
Writing and Erasing—
She had Woven and Unraveled a Tapestry of Words and Numbers.
His Breath Weaseling through his Teeth as he Wrote—
he Carved More Words on The Page.
Tell me of the man who wandered the halls
and sacked the supply room—
and suffered sophomores.
The Pen Fell from of his Fingers like a Heavy Sword.
Every Word Sounded Like Them—
Stunk of Them!
His Fucking Attic was a Nightmare—
Shambles and Voices!
Penelope was Picking up The Pieces.
His Feet were still Bleeding from The Broken Glass.
He Shifted Them Beneath his Desk.
Then he Seized The Pen Again.
Tell me of The Man Who Wandered these High School Halls
and Sacked Citadels of Ignorance
and Suffered Sophomores!
Tell me of The Man Who Wanted to be Somebody—
Who Wanted to be Some-Goddamned-Body!
Not a Fucking Teacher.
Sing of The Man!
Chewing Hard at his Lip—
his Eyes Raced over The Lines.
He Longed to Hear The Music of The First Homer—
Their Idiot Voices, Adolescent Voices were in his Head—
Drowning The Music.
Just Their Voices.
Their Music-Less Voices.
And The Voices of The Television One Story Below.
And Another Voice.
You Know The Day Destroys The Night!
A Taunting, Unforgiving Darkness in his Head.
Night Divides The Day!
The Music of The War.
The Music of The War was in his Head.
The Music of The War To Be Somebody.
Try to Run!
Try to Hide!
Howling from a Parisian Tomb.
Break On Through to The Other Side!
Break On Through to The Other Side!
In The Silence of The Attic There was a Sadness—
a Mortal Sadness.
This is the End.
Beautiful Friend …
Old Warriors Cry Alone.
He Knuckled Away Tears from Behind his Glasses.
He Would Write The Beginning.
And When The Music’s Over—
He Took Up his Pen Once More.
Turn Out The Lights.
Homer Must Write in The Dark.
He Must Write Words Without Music.
The Old Warrior Opened The Cover of his Pilfered Copy of The Odyssey—
Bending Back The Broken Spine of a Volume—
Stolen from The High School Book Room
on The Last Day
of The Last Year
he had Taught The Odyssey to Sophomores.
He Creased Back The First Page.
In The Beginning.
Odysseus had been Trapped on The Island of Ogygia.
Homer Cradled Himself Over his Notebook to Write Lines that had No Music.
The High School had been Ogygia.
Odysseus had been Held Prisoner There by The Beautiful Calypso.
This is What Homer Wrote of The Warrior he had Once Been.
This is an excerpt from the first volume of a free-prose verse novel. Meanwhile, James continues his endless War to Be Somebody. Please comment below, find out more about the author, or consider donating a sum to this magazine as thanks for this experience.
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