The Atlas

The atlas knows that heroes and lovers
Go all over and around the everywhere
To find who they are or will or want to be.
Odysseus sings to sirens, and the sirens repeat:
“Take your arms, and take your men,
And scourge the seven seas with me!
We’ll take our time to find no less
Than the best the world can ever offer.”

And so, from history to history and sea to sea,
Impassioned lovers and dreamers and poets
Go find themselves in distant continents
And they wonder as they wander:
“Does victory belong to the strongest of men
Or to the wary likes of me?
Will wanderlust and woman lust and words entwine
To make a pretty poem or a pretty love?”

And when the Grecian gods came down
From Olympus with royal decrees,
Their spirits and their flesh would lust
For lands and loves and women’s songs:
“Oh, god, your hands are lovely, firm,
And so adept to grope and craft.
We’ll give you our hands and give you our lands
If you will give us all that you have.”

Helen bore her heroes, and she bore them well—
Her bosom and her beauty both were ripe
For hero-making and lovers’ rhymes.
And so she stood beneath the godly mountain and sang:
“Your love and your songs are quite far from my bed
And your poems of my gold-spun hair do upset.
Is it so hard to see from your distant lands
That my hair is black?”

And Atlas stood firm with the world on his back,
And unbearable burden to offer to women
To try to win their love.
And he pondered for poetry to describe his desire:
“Your hair is far fairer and your lips are much sweeter
Than every rose whose thorns make me tender
And every continent upon my back
That makes me know more and see more and feel.”

Aphrodite had her choice of fine suitors,
But she chose her best and searched her heavenly atlas
To find the land and find the loves that befit her best.
She found no love, and so, alone, she sang:
“Oh, where can dearest love be found
When already I have so much?
What can they offer that I can’t afford,
And what can they give me that I couldn’t get?
You heroes of old and you heroes of now,
Please cease in your quest to win woman’s sad heart.
You do not know the sorrows I see
Alone with the worlds and with the gods.”

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