About Helen

The Encyclopaedia Britannica
Asserts Helen of Troy
Lived happily ever after
With King Menelaus of Sparta
Once the Acheans
Sorted out that
Kidnapping business
And Paris was safely dead
And Odysseus had thought of
That horse thing
To get them off the island
Once and for all…

 ...but I digress.
 And I disagree.

And so does Homer,
Whom the Encyclopaedia Britannica says
Might never have existed
As one man.
Homer might have been
Many storytelling men
(Yes, men.)
Who somehow managed
To mark Helen’s grief on the map
And to artfully question the honor
Of Odysseus.

If you can believe that
About Homer.
Go ahead and try to write that group epic.
See what happens.
Then you’ll be OK with
Homer as Historical Fact.

But back to the topic,
Which I feel right now.

Helen was in Troy ten years
With handsome, lovely Paris,
Who received her in payment for a favor--
Just a little deal between narcissists.

That’s how that goes.

But anyway.

We have no evidence that she was
Aching for Sparta all those years away,
That she wasn't perfectly satisfied with her new life,
That Troy displeased her.

But never mind.

She was there as an object
Of exquisite beauty.
An object.

That’s the thing.
The thing.
Hear me: The thing!

A thing taken once before
By beautiful Theseus,
Who also was excellent
At making use of women
Who outclassed him.

But I digress.

This is what the nonexistent Homer said,
Which the Encyclopaedia Britannica needs to think about:

When Telemachus arrives on Sparta
In search of Odysseus,
Helen says,
Let’s drink to forget.
And then she says,
Hell, boys, let’s add this little potion
I have here
To our wine
That we might completely forget
Every goddamned one of our sorrows.

And she does.
And they do.
And Telemachus sticks around
For a while and drinks her wine.

And maybe Helen doesn’t mind looking at him
Because she benumbs herself with every glass.

That is not a happy ending,
Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Forgetting--just ask Homer--
Is an egregious sin;
It is about abandoning your story,
And there’s no fixing that.

That’s a grieving heart,
Dear one.

That is woman as object
Stuck in a sentence
Whose author is her captor.

That is beauty
Annihilating itself
So you can’t get your hands on it.

And that is what women do.
Just ask one.


  1. That is powerful and makes me ruminate on my life!


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