Thursday, June 2, 2016

My Son, Achilles

I wrote this poem while half reading Fagles' translation of "The Iliad" and half watching my son at fencing practice.  It struck me that my son has a rich inner life, contrary to the stereotypes about young boys.  I can imagine him in an ancient epic, needing time to think about what is going on.  I saw him carefully put on his fencing gear on his way to a simulated battle and I began to write this poem.


My son, like Achilles, is not one for team sports.

He jumps in the car on the way to play practice,
pounces on his bike to cruise the neighborhood
like a 10-year-old James Dean.
But the appeal of team sports has always eluded him.

Like the Achaean hero, he stews over the 5th grade cheater,
privileges promised and not received,
the countless schoolyard injustices.
He slinks away to his videos, his Legos, and his solitude
as the battles rage on without him.

Maybe that’s why he enjoys fencing,
the ceremonial dressing for combat,
the bobbing and weaving on his own wine-dark sea
as he imagines avenging the death of his Patroclus
while the god who moves lightning
bellows for the class to do 30 push-ups,
my son, hands and toes on the mat,
surrendering to the gods once more.