Bill_Hartzia


      I

Hermes is smoking,
Leaning against a lamp-post,
Idly watching people pass by.
He's dressed in his leathers,
Black, unromantic and functional,
Perfect for the motorcycle courier
About town.
I watch him from my workshop,
Waiting for the storm to break.
A dark cloud forms in the azure sky,
Hermes looks nervous
And decides to come in.
"Polyphemus!" He greets me,
Raising his hand in a lazy wave
Like all the cool kids do.
I wave back, a half-hearted gesture,
A sop to social niceties,
That Hermes never notices.
"I've misplaced a package," he says
"Nothing special, just something for a...
Friend."
His voice is rough as gravel, hiding the emotion
That I know his weighty words carry.
"No deliveries today," I say,
And I know that this is the truth.
"You've not seen my little doggie?
You'll tell me if you do."  His words
Are hesitant, wary of sounding weak,
Because he's told me so very many times
That Hermes is never wrong.
I just smile and as he leaves I close my eye
In time to miss the lightning bolt falling from the sky.
Hermes is smoking
As he mounts his Harley.
He makes the engine roar,
I just close the door.

       II

The workshop is quiet and peaceful
And I turn back to my cluttered bench,
Take my tools in my hand
To continue building another piece
Of my trap.
A muffled yelp pricks my ears up,
And I sigh as I lay down my file.
Opening the door to the back room
I see Athena, in disguise to mere mortal eyes,
Sitting in my chair with three heads
In her lap.
"Oh Polyphemus," she sighs,
Her voice like the rustle of leaves in the wind.
"This can only be a game for so long,"
"But it is my revenge, sweet Mistress,
Would any of you deny me that?"
"I may counsel against it," she says.
She smiles at me, and it's like ice freezing in my veins.     
"Zeus finds it funny for now,
But Hermes's doggie has a job to do.
The gates of Hades need their warden,
As much as poor Odysseus still needs you."

She should not speak his name!
Unceasing rage possesses me, my vision
Clouded now by furnace red.

"I see.  Alecto.  Are your sisters here?"
Who does she speak to?  What wisdom
Does Athena thus impart?

      III

"Noman came and Noman went
Taking with him th'immortal gift of sight,
Polyphemus has been wronged by man,
The Furies now attend his plight!"
A chorus of voices has arisen,
They surround me like the heads of Scylla,
The Furies?  Here?  Helping me?
The room seems colder and I shiver.
"It is not my place to meddle,"
says Athena as insincere as iron pyrites.
She smiles a Tantalean smile
And fades away to nothingness,
Leaving me with just the touch of iron nails
And bloodied palms upon my shoulder.
Cerberus, my little doggie, raises all his heads
And eyes me most morosely.
He's hungry and lest he howl soon,
I take myself to find him meat.
Any damned soul will suffice,
Cerberus is not fussy about what he eats.
Part of me still heeds Athena,
Hermes will return time and again,
Odysseus must be caught and killed
Before Zeus ends my little game.

        IV

The trap is only half constructed,
There's days of work still left to do,
I bend to my task of shaping metal
To snare Odysseus and give him what he's due.
While I work on through the night,
An easy task for one once deprived of sight,
I hear a melancholy giggle,
From a room I know must be empty now.
The Furies haunt me, feeding off my soul,
And filling it with rage against a trickster king
I will not listen to their entreaties,
I will not be distracted from my revenge
But all too soon the sun has risen
And from outside I hear a familiar roar,
Hermes returns, his bike belching smoke,
And then his shadow falls across my door.

      V

"Have you seen my doggie, Polyphemus?"
He's unshaven and his eyes are wild.
"There's a rumour that you're keeping secrets,"
I know his temper and it's not escaped me
That his leathers are gone, replaced now by
An armour formed from liquid metal
That reflects the morning sunlight redly round my room.
My workshop seems to burn with incandescence
Matching my rage and Hermes's anger.
"You may not hurt Odysseus!"
Athena reappears, emerging from the blaze of sunlight
Like Aphrodite rising from the celestial foam.
"His life is claimed already by another,
You have to let this end."
Someone presses moistened lips close by my ear
And their words inflame the injustice festering
In my soul.
"Not you, Alecto," says Athena,
Her face grey and suddenly tired.
"Polyphemus has done enough,
I'm cutting your marionette's wires."


     VI

Hermes is smoking, leaning in my doorway
Watching as I attend to my smallest chores.
"Talk to me, Polyphemus," he urges,
"We can be friends once more"
He has his doggie back, and Odysseus still walks free
Poor old Polyphemus, but then who would I rather be?

The End

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