Michael Collier


If you think Odysseus too strong and brave to cry,

that the god-loved, god-protected hero

when he returned to Ithaka disguised,

intent to check up on his wife


and candidly  apprise the condition of his kingdom

so that he steeled himself resolutely against surprise

and came into his land cold-hearted, clear-eyed,

ready for revenge, then you read Homer as I first did,


too fast, knowing you’d be tested for plot

and major happenings, skimming forward to the massacre,

the shambles engineered with Telémakhos

by turning beggar and taking up the challenge of the bow.


Reading this way you probably missed the tear

shed by Odysseus for his decrepit dog, Argos,

who’s nothing but a bag of bones asleep atop

a refuse pile outside the palace gates.  The dog is not


a god in earthly clothes but in its own disguise

of death and destitution is more like Ithaka itself.

And if you returned home after twenty years

 you  might weep for the  hunting dog


you long ago abandoned, rising up from the garbage

of its bed, its instinct of recognition still intact,

enough will to wag its tail, lift its head, but little more.

Years ago you had the chance to read that page more closely


but instead you raced ahead, like Odysseus, cocksure

with your plan. Now the past is what you study,

where guile and speed give over to grief so you might stop

and desiring to weep, weep more deeply.




“Argos” is from The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin, 2000).