Dereliction

by David W. Landrum

Thoughts on a Line from the Odyssey

Antinous hurled a three-leggéd stool
and hit Odysseus, who was disguised
as a decrepit tramp. A reprimand
came flying from Odysseus and from
the other suitors. They called it a crime,
saying his doom was sure and not knowing
their doom would follow his in a short while.
And after dusk one October I sat
near to a burger-chewing gang of boys
at a MacDonalds on Michigan street.
In came the swagman, carrying his things
in a plastic bag. He came in there a lot.
I often saw him. One boy said, I knew
that old fucker would show up here tonight.
The others laughed. He came in there a lot,
bought food with cash someone had handed him,
and huddled in that warmth until the time
he could go back to a rescue mission bed.
He heard them (homeless men are keen to sounds),
looked down in patient shame, but held his peace—
an urban Job, a patient sufferer
who must endure the mockery given
to vagabonds. What if he were a god?
Bad business to hit a famished tramp.

 

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