One of the great things about reading is connecting what you read with the world around you. It’s a simple enough concept – one reads to find out what it’s like to be human – but like actually reading the assembly instructions before building something from IKEA, not everyone slows down to do it.
Luckily, there are the times where life forces you to slow down and “read” into life a bit further.
This week’s poem, “Achaeans” by friend and fellow UC poet Kevin Honold, is a good example of the kind of wide connections available if life is read closely. From the battles scenes of Homer’s Iliad to the drive to work, Honold connects the sights and sounds of the modern world with that of Homer’s time, bringing the risk and humanity of every day existence to the fore. The defiant tone at the end is complicated by the risk involved in the speaker’s line of work. In a way, the speaker is saying, after so much killing – then and now – at the end of they day, there is only the living and the dying.
Achaeans – Kevin Honold
Real crackerjacks, they were. I woke up before work
just to read how they died, how the homesick son of Hellas
aimed the ships’ eyes, painted red on the prows and
livid with froth, away from the shore where the companions lay,
where a forest of planted oars marks the graves.
When I crossed the Ohio in a pipe truck that morning
the hulls I saw spin down the green water,
helpless before a quartering wind, breaking apart
on the pylons of the Covington bridge.
I saw the survivors paddling broken oars to shore.
Potholes banged the copper pipe in the racks behind me
like the clangor of speared Achaeans rattling
in their armor as they hit the sand, cut down
by the hundred in windrows like wheat by sickles.
Homer used up all the killing similes but I got
an acetylene tank with a Turbo-Torch
and fifteen foot of hose. I can sweat copper. Fix leaks.
p.s. “Achaeans” is from Kevin’s book Men as Trees Walking.
p.p.s. I am happy to announce that my poem “Joe” has been selected for RHINO Poetry’s 2015 Editor’s Prize. Check out the announcement here.