Friends of Writers is pleased to share three poems by alum Beverley Bie Brahic (poetry, ’06) originally published by Poetry Ireland.
‘Oval like a Mirror’
Oval like a mirror Chardin’s painting
holds a sideboard chock-full of objects,
some almost transparent—
others stubbornly opaque.
The woman has stepped out for a moment:
to fetch the missing ingredient
or respond to the cry of a child?
The mystery of her absence is compounded
by the pair of wine glasses: one hardly touched
but behind it and darker
like a mirror image, the second drained;
and the teacups, white porcelain. Steam climbs
from the near one and a teaspoon’s handle.
In the mirror—if there’s a mirror—the other’s pristine.
The Good Wife
Odysseus, so the story goes, took a long trip, from Ithaca to Ithaca.
And she stayed home weaving the tapestry of her fidelity.
She was never tempted, they say, by apples, pomegranates, or any other telltale signs of woman’s frailty.
Now Odysseus is back. Once again Penelope demonstrates her resourcefulness.
Question: if she’s so smart, why didn’t she rid herself of the suitors?
It’s the sort of question too literal children ask. Why did Goldilocks? Why didn’t Snow White?
And the parents say—It’s only a story, it’s time to turn out the light, it’s late and
we’ve got dishes to do.
. . .
Even once he dispensed with the suitors,
showered and tossed his clothes in the wash,
Penelope feared a god
was hoodwinking her.
Odysseus seethes. ‘Find me some bedding,’
he instructs the nurse, ‘I’ll sleep downstairs.’
‘Prepare him the bed he built,’
‘take it to the hall. Heap it with fleeces
and the coverlets we weave on our looms.’
‘What!’ Odysseus bleats
—‘the bedstead I carved
from an olive tree, whose slender leaves
quake like a virgin on her wedding night—
who the hell cut
my marriage bed from its root?’
. . .
So it is Odysseus, thinks Penelope.
After all these years.
She will miss her suitors. She looks
at Odysseus, she looks at her wools
frilly and green like the vine stock in spring,
black like mildewy grapes
left after the pickers have passed: fermented,
sunsweet, almost wine.
What will she do now, without her suitors?
. . .
Penelope looks at Odysseus; looks at her unfinished tapestry.
Perhaps, she thinks, a touch more carmine in the top right corner.
Near Knossos, A Borrowed House
Over the party wall, voices
arguing. There’s the old man, the
young man, an ingénue’s treble—
grizzled patriarch; downy boy
whose lip’s stained with a mustache; girl
who is marriageable
some god has his eye on.
Day and night: it never stops.
No parting shot with its seal
of blood; no slammed door, boots
stomping off. Not even the long
interrupted silence of Amen, So-be-it.
I suppose they’ve been at it
centuries, like gods and the mortals.