The Return (full sequence)

The Return

1. Penelope Waits

why do I constantly
look out our window
hoping to see your ship
returning to its harbour?
 
why do I listen for the sound
of your footsteps echoing
up to our bedchamber?
 
but I know you too well
 
you've gone after
your own desires
& I'm the spider
who waits quietly
 
the thing with journeys
is that they spiral inwards
to your own dark heart
 
should you return
you'll find me here
spinning a web
to ensnare you
 
& every night I unpick it
while hungry men wait below
 
none of them
have your eyes
or your smell
 
all the heroes returned
from the wars,
except you
 
long have I dreamed
of your dark hair, tanned skin,
& sinewy form to emerge
out of the frothing sea-water
 
& into my arms
 
but I know you too well
you will come home only
when you are tired
of your journeys
 
your betrayals
your lies
 
& after so many threads
I'm tired of waiting
for our lives to begin again
 
is there anything worth
salvaging
between us?

2. Telemachus Schemes

I planned to go & find him
in my dreams a goddess
with long dark hair &
ivory skin faintly whispered
that he would return
 
I traveled but found
no word of him, just assurances
so I pace the walls of our palace
while fat old men
drink our wine
eat our food
lounge around
planning to covet my mother
in my father's house
 
they pay no attention to me
I wander unnoticed
& unchecked
 
my mother hides behind walls
picking & unpicking at embroidery
there is nothing to do
but wait
 
my father left me for the wars
I was too young to join
now that I'm older
my mother seems unsure
of my intentions
 
every day I look
to the fathomless sea hoping
to see my father's ship
negotiating the waves
 
one day I will find him
my time will come
 
3. Calypso Sings

It is surprising what a storm
throws up on the shore -
today walking along
the alabaster sands
after a tumultuous night
I found a man
 
he was bedraggled
partially clothed in seaweed
& rags, his skin tanned &
muscles on his sinewy arms
like knotted rope
 
I thought him dead
but as I watched
he coughed up seawater
so I got to my knees
& softly sang
to arouse him
 
he awoke in despair
he had lost everything -
his men, his ship,
his way home
 
I led him to my house
plying him with wine, goats cheese,
& grapes, while singing
to calm him
 
slowly I fell in love
with the scars on his back,
his long sea-bleached hair,
his moods, & his occasional
smiles
 
he explored the hidden caves
of my island, the forests
& secret waterfalls
I wanted him to forget
his family
his own people
 
I kept him here for seven years
& took him for my lover
I wanted him to love me
but his heart was already taken
 
the other gods
wanted me to throw him back
to the ocean
& he was restless
pining for his wife
 
he would sit on the beach for hours
watching the waves
slowly sobbing & staring
in the direction of his home
I knew I was no longer part
of his story
so I let him go
 
he will go back to his wife
& I will be left here
looking out to the sea
watching over him
as he sails away
hoping my charms
will keep him safe
on the ocean paths
 
he will return to his island
& win back his lost kingdom
 
I will be left here
on my own again
singing softly to myself

4. Eurylochus Laments

Curse the Gods
& all those who follow them
I am not a fatalist, but I know
we are all doomed
 
he will escape though
he always escapes
it is us who pay for it
 
we have faced a monster with six heads
eating our crew-mates, a witch
who turned us into pigs,
women with beautiful voices
trying to lure us ashore,
a giant who dashed the heads
of the crew against a cavern wall
& ate them whole, & of course
Gods seeking vengeance for his
own transgressions & deceits
 
& each time
he survives

he is my lord & king
but
 
when you gaze into the chaos
long enough
you get to see how things will
fall into place
 
he will make it home &
win back his kingdom
 
our wives, sons, & daughters
will grieve, wondering what
became of us
 
all will marvel at his survival;
the story of the lost sea-wanderer
emerging like Orpheus
out of the Land of the Dead
sparing no thought for us
 
we will be lost
amongst the waves,
scattered across these islands
& forgotten
 
he will return
& sacrifice us all for it

5. Athena Watches

it was not meant to happen like this
he wasn't meant to take so long
to get home
 
events can spiral
even out of our reach
when you play everyone
like puppets the strings
can get tangled
 
the human race is nothing but story
individual lives
threads of narrative
to be told in the dark night
by the roaring bonfire
under a black sky burning
with bright stars
 
we gods know this
& yet we also know
that we are part of this story too;
a story within a story
 
I contrived for everything
to turn out the way I wished
yet the path always branches
onto an infinite number of
other paths to take
 
he was imprisoned on that island
for so long I told her
she had to let him go

 when he does return
he will be alone
there will be reunions &
reconciliations & bloodshed
 
I have done my best
to set things right
 
yet there are always other pathways

6. Odysseus Returns

Saltwater is in my blood -
most of my life has been spent
in the sea or boats

after Troy fell
it was a rough journey home
every day I dreamed
to return to the rocky shores
of my kingdom

to see it's olive trees & quiet bays
& wander the long hill-paths

she held me captive for years
& slowly I fell for her charms
but then she told me I had to go

she gave me a sharp axe &
I built a boat from the tall
alders, poplars, & firs
on her island, once it
was finished she loaded
it with pomegranates, goat's
cheese, apples, & wine
& then off I went sailing
the oceans paths home

when I returned I was alone,
there were parasites living
in my house
eating my food,
drinking my wine &
after I killed them all
I was king again

with a people I no longer recognise
or understand

a young man calls me father
watching me intently with every step

& my wife
is not her
not the woman I left

she has erected walls within walls
I cannot find my way through her labyrinth
she kept suitors out of our bed for so long
she has grown used to the solitude

every night I dream
I am lying on the white sand
listening to the waves rolling lazily ashore
& she is there
standing over me
softly singing
while a breeze blows through
her long brown hair

then I awake
it is still dark
& I hear my wife
muttering in her sleep

on the wind
I can hear the waves
calling me to sail again -
saltwater is in my blood


Joanne Fisher



It’s nice to see it all together.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

9 thoughts on “The Return (full sequence)

  1. Fantastically written… I really enjoyed reading of the various perspectives of this classic story. You did a great job of showing some of the mindset of how each character is affected by Odysseus being away from home for 20 years.

    Liked by 1 person

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