O, Penelope!

The nuns of Mt. St. Mary's loved Penelope, whose skills
they urged us all to emulate: She fought off men. She used
her mind. Long after we'd read the prose version, slightly
sexed down (those nights with Calypso got eclipsed),

Penelope was steadily invokedwily, though not quite
as wily as Mr. Wiliness himself; patient, so that even Job
might take his text from her; discreet in her appetites,
which the nuns chose to ignore, never quizzing us on

the scar (since God forbid we should mention
the man's thigh) or the bed with its highly unusual post.
No, ours was the Penelope of Attic vases,
gowned, accepting gifts from suitors, or sitting

at her loom, elbow on knee, head on hand, thoughtful
Telemachus beside her as she figured out her next move
now that the maids had betrayed her. No more unraveling!
But she was shining among all women, the gods would

Heretical, yes, but we mustn't blame the Greeks;
at least [Finger wag] they believed in something.
And they liked a good story: Odysseus stringing the bow,
stripping off his rags to guide the fatal arrows

to the suitors until the great hall smoked with blood....
Not that we were being asked to condone violence.
But anything to preserve virtue! [Sigh] Anything! ...
No wonder so many of us headed straight

for the back seat of a car. Why wait any longer?
We wanted to test our pluck and ingenuity ...
and then, hand sliding down a bare thigh,
whisper, Oh, I'd know you anywhere....


Poems by Lynne Knight:

Her Story
The Story
Not Even They Could Stop It, and They Were Myth
Boundless Kingdom
Bedtime Story
Lost Sestina
Meditation Interrupted by Bats
Bed and Bone
O, Penelope!
None of Us at Prayer

Dissolving Borders

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets