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On First Reading Homer in Iraq

by Kimberly Poitevin

Much had he traveled in the realms of sand
and Saddam’s crumbling palace had he seen:
he’d even swum once in its pool, his lean
trunk glimmering in moonlight as his hand,
once clenched, relaxed. He beckoned to his band,
then slipped beneath the surface, still, serene
as death. No blood flowed that night — just clean
cool water, rippling in a darkened land.

To that dark place a package came from home,
with fresh socks, sunscreen, and an ancient book
Mom had inscribed with Homer understands.
He read all night beneath the palace dome;
his face was wet when deafening mortars shook
him from the page to do what war demands.

Kimberly Poitevin is a professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts, where she teaches humanities and writing courses. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Quarterly, elimae, Four and Twenty, and the Midwest Literary Magazine.

Pat Jones
Published 31 May 2011