Odysseus’ Apology to the Phaeacians

Ulysses and Nausicaa on the Island of the Phaeacians, Peter Paul Rubens

I never meant to appear to you
half-alive, caked with salt and sun
walking my greed along your endless shore.
Still, you’d have me sit at your table
take gifts and a ship to sail off with.
Then, the only word I could speak was home.
All you said was I’ll take you.

When I found your ship, saw Its oars
turned to smokey quartz levitating
above the tide, the sea-foam licking
at the unmoving hull. When I saw
the newly sprung teeth biting black
into the horizon hiding your island
from the sea that you loved so much.

I understood that sons only witness
the erosion of their fathers, that children
are not unlike guests, bumbling about a place
that they don’t understand the making of.
The ship, its mineral crew, your island
all wait in perfect silence to be relieved
from the stony weight of giving.