Friday, September 13, 2013

Thersites: A Poem

Sometimes a poem never coalesces. No amount of work or rework will make it take shape. It remains inchoate. I have stacks of these poems. Occasionally I get that stack of poems out and see if I have any new perspective I can use to finish one of them. I believe I never have. Sometimes the poems are finished and I just don't consider them up to par. 

One of my favorite Shakespearean characters is Thersites in Troilus and Cressida.  In Greek mythology, Thersites is quite a despicable character. A liar, a coward, a thief. A scoundrel. Eventually Achilles kills him. And rightfully so. But in the Shakespeare play, one of my favorites, Thersites takes on the role of the fool, and although portrayed early in the play as the lowly knave he is, used as a punching bag and errand boy by the Greeks, he gains strength throughout the play as the vanity of war over something petty lays waste to the noble heroes. Thersites abides, and because he survives he walks away unscathed, stronger, and gets in a few diatribes against those he had been bullied and mocked by. In short, he gets the last laugh. 

Thersites

You sent me limping
Behind enemy lines
For sixers of Schlitz

Kicked me around
When the Titans
Lost by a field goal

Made me sweep up 
After you cast lots 
For Achilles' sandals

But now the war is over
And I've got your wives
In the streets
Your daughters between
Silken sheets
And your sons cleaning
My stables

Thanks for the lessons
In warfare.


     I can never fix that poem because it's not broken. It's just not very good. I'm going to post a few more clunkers, perhaps even making last ditch efforts to transform them into something presentable. Poetry is a rough trade. 


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