I, wanderer, warrior,
Inventor of schemes which conquered Troy,
Outwitting even Poseidon's one-eyed son.
I, who enchanted goddesses
But escaped their grasp,
Could not be seduced by Sirens,
Tied to the mast of past longings, heard another's song,
Saw another's face,
The silky black tendrils of her hair weaving through the tapestry of my thoughts.
Penelope, are you more than memory?
In my dreams I become your loom,
You ravel and unravel my hopes.
Are you the Penelope I knew or have you too forgotten,
Foundered, as I did in that mad mad war, in these madder wanderings,
And even now in the wonderings of my tide-tossed mind.
Penelope, do you wait for me?
What have I lost in this world of brawn and manly prowess,
Where women are goddesses or slaves,
Above or below me,
Where human hearts dare not yearn
For what they cannot claim or reclaim?
In the mist I see Penelope in her garden,
Watering the blossoms of tomorrow,
Penelope in her room winding the warp,
Twisting the skeins of yesterday,
Letting slip through her fingers year after year, the colors of the seasons.
Am I then in love only with memory?
I, the wily Odysseus, humbled by wisps of dreams
Waking me at dawn to stare at the rising tumescent sun swollen on the horizon,
Behind me always.
But only in the dusk of this vast western emptiness,
Lies the warming call of home.
Must memory alone sustain me,
Or do you live outside my mind,
Daily scanning the craggy shore of Ithaca
Peering across that fog-gray desolation,
Weaving into your woolly nights the foam of this churning sea,
Waiting for me?
Even Odysseus Yearns
In her poem “Even Odysseus Yearns”, Tracy Marks uses descriptive language and specific word choice to express the wonder and doubt of both Penelope and Odysseus. This descriptive language can be seen throughout her recollections of Odysseus’ journey and his varying hopes on the existence and wait for Penelope. Marks also uses figurative language like imagery to allow the reader to imagine in their head the constant roller coaster of this wonder and doubt that Odysseus is experiencing. Tracy Marks experienced in her words was a “shutdown of the poetic wellspring” during the 70’s at a low point in her life. She “turned her attention to spirituality and the study of religion and began a long quest of finding spiritually what she was no longer able to find in her own emotional life and creative inspiration.”1 The speaker of the poem, who is Odysseus, is starting to doubt if his wife still waits for him in Ithaca and goes through stages yearning for her. Tracy Marks and Odysseus experienced the similar quest to find something long forgotten to them. Odysseus was not satisfied with the life he lived at seas so his journey to find his home could be very similar to Marks’ journey to find her true passion and origination.
The central theme of the poem can be identified as scepticism and the doubt of Odysseus and the homecoming to his wife. The poem shows that much like Penelope wonders about her husband, Odysseus wonders about his wife too. Throughout the poem Odysseus asks Penelope a common question, as seen when he said “Penelope, are you more than memory?” (Line 11). Odysseus does not know after being at sea for 20 years if Penelope has given up hope that he will ever return. She may have moved on already. The beginning of the poem can be closely compared to Homer’s invocation of the Muse in the beginning of the Odyssey. The first stanza recollects on Odysseus’ journeys from Troy to home so using the same format as Homer did may have greater signifyed the purpose of that part being that Odysseus experienced many things that could change a person. Change is another characteristic of Odysseus in this poem. The second stanza is the first sense of Odysseus’ uncertainty that his wife can possibly be waiting for him. His thoughts are vacillating and creating that up-and-down motion of wonder and then of doubt. In the third and fourth stanzas you see this vicious cycle repeat itself. First he is questioning if Penelope is still the same as when he loved her when he left for Troy (“Are you the Penelope I knew”) and if she even still waits for him at home (“Penelope, do you wait for me?”). Then, he can see Penelope in his mind experiencing the same cycle he is.
Marks uses definitive language and word choice to provide a deeper meaning to what she is trying to get to the reader about the state of Odysseus’ emotions. For example, in line 30, she writes “Waking me at dawn to stare at the rising tumescent sun swollen on the horizon.”. Tumescent can be defined as exhibiting or affected with many ideas or emotions. Much like the sun on the horizon, Odysseus is in his own way “tumescent:”. Marks uses the constantly occurring theme of women weaving on a loom in the Odyssey to also describe Odysseus’ despondency. In line 10 it says, “The silky black tendrils of her hair weaving through the tapestry of my thoughts.”. Odysseus is not only dealing with the doubt of Penelope waiting for him but the temptation of another women he had met on his journey (Calypso). Silky can represent the suave and smooth persuasiveness of Calypso but black at the same time can represent death and despair of the final realization that he must let go of Penelope to stay with her.
Another theme that is constantly expressed to support the themes created by Marks in her poem are the emotions of Penelope. Even though the poem is about Odysseus and his perturbation, seeing the other hand in the story can support the message that the author may be trying to get across to the reader. The fourth stanza goes into detail about how Penelope feels through each line. Line twenty-four, “Watering the blossoms of tomorrow,” can mean hope. Line twenty-five, “Penelope in her room winding the warp,” can mean sorrow. And in line twenty-six “Twisting the skeins of yesterday,” can mean despair because of the use of yesterday and the strength that she may be trying to give to hold onto yesterday’s hope. The ending line of this stanza says “Letting slip through her fingers year after year, the colors of the seasons.”. If one further examines the statement “the colors of the seasons” they would find that Spring could represent pink and green or hope. Summer could represent blue and green representing hope and wonder. Autumn could represent orange and yellow of sadness and despair. Finally, Winter could represent blue and white of lost hope and desolation. If you even further examine this, the emotions usually associated with each season could compare to those of Penelope.
The most important technique that Marks used to get her poem to create and impact on the reader through Odysseus’ eyes is making you, the reader stand in Penelope’s shoes. In the poem Marks addresses you, as the reader, as the main focus in the poem, making you play the role of Odysseus’ wife. This technique is vital in getting you to think about what the words mean and how Odysseus means them. The author takes the personal connection that you should make with your readers to a whole new level. This can make the read more relatable, interesting, and inspiring for those who put themselves in the position of Penelope. It provokes a different kind of thought. One that not only makes the reader see through the eyes of Odysseus but forces them to think of those opposing, addressed side. Even Marks herself may have experienced the doubt and wonder that Odysseus is experiencing in her poem. What he is going through can be felt by anyone with her clever choice of words and the viewpoint from which she writes them.
“Even Odysseus Yearns” is a clever, well-thought poem the invokes the mind of the reader through descriptive language and specifically chosen terms. Marks creates wonder through this poem not only for the purpose of describing Odysseus’ wonder about Penelope but for us to wonder as well. The reader of this poem can take from it that change should be welcome but sacrifices for this change may have to be made and people may have to leave your life forever as a consequence.
The choices you make impact the outcome of your life. Marks uses many different aspects of poetry to produce a mysterious poem that can make you wonder with doubt, much like Odysseus and Penelope had in the Odyssey. The reversal of viewpoint in her work can be defined as a new door or window to see new ideas behind the characters in the Odyssey.