Last fall after I had spent several weeks coming to terms with southern Italy’s recent history since my visit in 1973, I finished an epic of sorts.  I first posted this at La Parola Vivace but am reposting it here.  Enjoy.  xJenne’

Odysseus Weeps…

[I]t is the wine that leads me on, the wild wine

that sets the wisest man to sing at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the man to dancing…it even
tempts him to blurt out stories better never told. –  Homer, Odyssey

“Una mattina mi son svegliato…di l’invasor

Bella ciao, ciao, ciao…”

–Canzione di la Resistenza di Calabria *


At dusk

Dreaming of a distant summer

You imagine your way home

To the warm and wine-dark



To Italy and Calabria

Where black swans gather

Drifting down one by one

To the coastline


Tide singing the exploits

Of a wayward hero

Glittering and translucent ash

From a ship on fire

Dissolving on the night


On the cliff above you

Homer wakes at his campfire

From a restless sleep

Diving past in a burning

Rush of air

To cut Odysseus loose

From the mast


Breathing against his white neck

There on the sand

In the wavering moonlight

Bringing him to life




In the mariners’ cafe

A little night music

On warped 45’s

A shuffle to the concertina


You and the teller of tales

Swirl to the tarantella

One-up each other

With sagas of conquest

Laughing together

In the warm waters

Off the Costa Viola


You have always wanted

To live at the dawn of time

This way

But now a mourning dove

Brings you news

Of a war in the streets

Of Reggio Calabria


A bloodbath there

The corpses of thugs

In doorways


You see photographs of teenagers

In the Via Candido, with a banner

Reading Adesso Amazzatecci Tutti—

Kill Us All Then


Women looking out

From behind the shutters

Of cement-block palazzi


To the beach


The Gioa Port

Where crates of heroin

Wait for shipment to New York




In a gorse-covered meadow

In the Aspromonte

A man with grey hair

Punctures his own wrist

Pierces a boy’s wrist

Commingles their blood


One of us now Carlo,

He says, sotto voce:.

Tell no one– that is our code

Of silence, Omerta


After the initiation

High thin voices, concertinas

And tambourines at the café’

Out in the near dark

The cigarette embers

Of those who live by vendetta


Homer takes your hand;

You ascend the hills

Of Reggio:

You see your lover and his family

Fallen at their doorway

Waiting for the death cart


Yours is a keening for the losses

Of your youth

And that of the women


The plundering of dreams

The murder of sons


With the others

You drag a clay pitcher

Through well water

Pouring a glass for fertility

A glass for grief




In the waters off Calabria,

Deep in a trawler’s hold

Ak47’s are hidden

Beneath troths of ice

Packed with the bodies

Of the swordfish,

The pesce spada

Madonna and Child

Carried up the mountain

To the shrine at Polsi

Men in white hoods and robes

Gouge their own flesh

With small knives.

To atone


You look out

At thick cypress


To hide the  villa

Gone to ruin

.A fox passes

belly-low to the earth

With a limp vole

In her mouth




You who promenade there

Surrendering your dissipation

To the evening air

Do you see the fallen

Black swan

On the white sand?


Children march daily

In the street—

Kill us all then

They chant,

To the entrenched and ruthless



Thieves of joy

Cut-throat crimini in bunkers


Of honor and blood


A mariner sails across the strait

With his spear

Impaling the pesce spada in mid air


Laughter and fresh meat at the fire

No longer:

A ragged moon rises

And there is a lament

Said to belong to the ghost

Of a returning hero


Scylla and Charybdis

Contort on the pyre

Of the burning sea

Love’s body drowns

And Odysseus weeps.


* morning I was awakened

By the invaders….

Bella ciao, ciao, ciao

copyright Jenne’ R. Andrews 2010

All Rights Reserved.

copyright 2010 Jenne’ R. Andrews

All Rights Reserved

No reprinting of part or all of this work

without express permission of the authoress….