. . . And the Other
by Jennifer Crow





The first thing he asks

Have you been true? Not

Are you well, the boy?

Not even, Did you miss me

all these years apart?

I say yes.

I tell of the nights

unraveling my suitors,

of a chore left unfinished

two decades (and three days

but who counts days

when years have passed?)

so that I might return his kingdom

to him whole.  I tell him

none of the men in his halls

can compete with him.  Challenge

glints in his eyeshe will prove it

later, if I know him.  And I spoke truth

in thatnone of the laggards,

the false princes, the layabouts

underfoot can match my Odysseus. 

They cannot draw his bow, cannot pluck

the fruit of his gardens, cannot stir

my heart.  For that prize turned

to stone years ago.

I thought it dead when he left

on the long voyage to Troy—

even though I knew he’d return,

living or dead, to continue the sweet

torment of our days.  He can breast

the waves as once he rode over me,

he can turn his face to the sun

and find the home of the winds.

I, meantime, tread out the measure

of my days in the furrow he planned.

He thinks, smiling down at me, hair

streaked with grey, eyes twenty years

deeper and darker, that I cannot smell

the sorcery on him, cannot tell

where the women marked him.  Fool.

I knew the moment he surrendered, knew

like a knife-thrust.

Comfortable in his privilege,

he assumes I cannot lie to him

the pain and privilege of the unseen:

our tales forever half-heard

by the powerful.


Years after the ship’s watchful eye

blinked out of sight, after

the tales out of Troy slowed to a siege’s trickle,

a man washed up on the sand.

The tide curls back under my feet, tugging

my thoughts to clean limbs in the surf, flecked

with white sand from my beach.

At first I thought him my husband returned,

but youth still clung to the sharp bones

of his face.  He was the echo of my past

and for two seasons I had his love

until a fever erased him from my story.

And I felt a secret guilty joy

for having him, and for never having to choose.

Fate is its own choice, waiting

for the tide, the ship, the secret

that whispers on the night wind

as I unravel my story

line by line, with the shadow of the other

for company.



About the Author:

Shy and nocturnal, Jennifer Crow has never been photographed in the wild.  However, it is rumored that she lives near a waterfall in the wilds of western New York.  You can find more of her poetry at Strange Horizons and Goblin Fruit, as well as other electronic and print magazines.  To find out about future appearances of her work, you can check out her blog at http://jennifer-crow.livejournal.com.


Poem © 2007 Jennifer Crow. Painting by Francesco Primaticcio, 1563.