Explore UAB

Jehanne Dubrow

BPR 51 | 2024

As for Penelope—

after her husband reveals himself,
the divine costume dropping away
like rocks that tumble from a hillside,
she finds his face is a rough slab
but still familiar to the touch.
That first evening, intimacy is easy.
The couple remembers the way
to their bed. A goddess delays
the ending of night for hours,
the whole island held unmoving
so that the reunion stretches
like a lush vine over a wall.
We know this moment. We read it
together when we were twenty,
as far from our younger selves now
as a king trying to return to Ithaca.
At this point in the story,
most of the suitors are dead,
her husband having bent back
the bow as though it were a body
arched in pleasure. It’s simple for us
to make metaphors that tie murder
to desire. The gasp of the dying.
The penetrative spear. The land too
loses itself in similes of conquest.
Like a lover to be claimed. Like
a beautiful woman asleep in shadow.
Later is more difficult to picture,
at least for me: she cleans the hall
of clotted blood, the piled
corpses pale as marble,
like ancient, unlimbed sculptures.
We say visceral to mean feelings
twisted deep inside the gut, grief
or anger sharp as a swallowed pebble.
We say commitment to mean
marriage is a rope we’re tangled in.
Some days I think about untying it.
Later, where does the longing travel
when her husband sits close to her
at dinner, his fingers choked
around the hammered stem of a goblet.
What a boulder he has become,
all that history precarious,
the unsupportable weight of his love.