Poem of the Week: January 3rd, 2014

“[Misreading] The Odyssey in Iraq” by Brandon Courtney is our poem of the week and another one of our Pushcart Prize nominations. His chapbook Improvised Devices was recently published by Thrush Press. More of his work can be found in Volume 2 Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

[MISREADING] THE ODYSSEY IN IRAQ
By Brandon Courtney

Years spent in weariness, shipwrecked on the Isle of Iraq.

       [I misread Nausikaa’s unholy movements—
       she of white arms—as drowning swanlings
       in glassine water, wave-wracked, spreading
       their blemish-rinsed feathers wing-tip-to-wing-tip
       on sandbanks.]

She sinks, instead, pale sails of linen, her strange body havocked as flight,
anointed with golden oil for softening girls, into the shattering river.

       [I mistake it for the lordly Tigris, undrinkable Euphrates.]

She is content, now, to gaze into its ambulate mirror,
to white, like capsized ships, the water
with sheeting.

Artemis gathers her arrows, thunderstroked
into the curving earth, into ghosting
deer.

       [I misread their skin as immaculate,
       albinal, and not as bone-wreathed bucks, haunting
       the underwood.]

Odysseus rises—a reed from silt—to kneel at Nausikaa’s
knees as if they were fire, altar.

Ramadi greens through night vision goggles.

       [I mistake a soldier for the mountain
       lion, Odysseus—brine-armored, wind-crippled,
       prowling door-to-door, M-116 laser-scoped
       on hijabed women suspected of veiling men
       and their suicide belts in spider holes.]

Baghdad has burned a year longer than Troy.
       [I mistake its ash, wide as a grown man’s palm, elephant’s
       ear, for Icarus, falling a thousand thousand times
       back to earth.]


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