Penelope to Her Husband

Penelope to Her Husband

The morning you left
sunlight streamed through the open windows,
warm breezes with the scent of the sea
perfumed the marble hall.
I strung my loom;
each warp thread taut,
with just one golden strand
loosed.
As my shuttle moved
back and forth,
whisking the weft lines,
I imagined the sound of wooden oars
pulling your ship
across the emerald waters.

The threads changed
azure to turquoise,
cerulean to indigo,
silvered filaments mixed with ivory silk
agleam on the ocean.
For days the tapestry formed the coursing waves,
frothy flumes pearled white,
colorful fish and seahorses
rose; along with porpoises
and whales, exotic sea creatures appeared.
Weeks and months spent with wheel and spindle,
flax and wool and silken thread;
weaving slowed as lethargy
encompassed me.
An island of lotus formed from the deep
muddy-textured fabric,
leaving me dazed and glass-eyed on my cushion.

Waking at the moonless hour
I wandered the hall,
the marble cold under my bare feet.
It was then I drew back the loose
golden thread
and unraveled years of work
until I reached the clearer waters
of the earliest months.
Then, in the morning light,
I began to thread the loom
anew.

As the day’s weaving progressed
line by line, the texture
was rougher, a wind-whipped dark sea.
The iris of a monstrous eye
revealed itself in strands
of obsidian and jet;
line by line and row by row
the pupil dilated in rage.
A red woolen yarn bled onto the warp
blotching the field
as though the lives of your sailors spilled across the cloth.
At that moment my lamp’s wick sputtered
over the loom,
an ember fell onto the wide pupil,
an acrid stench rose from the singed material.

Again, wakening in the darkest hour,
my footsteps hollow in the marbled room,
I crossed to the loom,
pulled the solitary golden thread,
littered the cold floor with the remnants of years
until only the deep sea
remained.

Rough flaxen strands
in tarnished silver and violet
spun into spindles of sea
foam; dyed silk from eastern
shores threaded
skeins of scales and shells
until, in the sound of the threads,
a siren’s song is heard,
catches everyone’s ears,
pulls the strings into tangles,
threatens the tapestry’s doom.
I fed tufts of muslin
and heavy cotton into the warp,
muffling the captivating song
until nothing could be heard
but the soft shush of the threaded sea.

Day after day the ocean’s roar
sounds at the loom;
waves and tidal moons
appear, disappear and reappear
in the cresting foam.
A violent whirlpool of thread
fills the ground of linen,
tugging each line down
towards Poseidon’s throne,
catches the wind-filled silk
sails, until it seems the tapestry
itself may be lost to the deep.

Sleepless, I wander
from window to window
longing to see the fire of your ship
drawing again the golden thread,
unraveling the fear of losing
you to years of clear sailing
in the Aegean’s blue silk.
By morning light,
the threading of the loom begins
once more.

Clear seas drift across the tapestry
filling the days with sun and blue skies.
I work warp and weft to the sound
of seabirds in the harbor.
As her island appears in the new foreground
and the threads move from dark
to golden in beauty and form,
graceful flora and fauna appear
and make their way to this happy shore.
Every night, for seven years,
I unravel her beauty, try to relinquish her hold.
Each morning the same island appears;
each night its inhabitants’ charm and beauty
is left on the marble floor

until on that fateful morning ,
as traders and Phaeacian ships
make their way into port
and all that is seen across the linen field
are the turquoise sea and pale sands
of a welcoming harbor,
a beggarman with the blue eyes of a sailor and hero,
makes his way into the marbled halls,

searches for my loom, and, reaches for that golden thread,
strings the bow of great Odysseus –
and you are home.

*** Congratulations to anyone who persevered to the end of this poem!
I would like to thank Tony Maude, http://rumoursofrhyme.wordpress.com/. His thoughtful editing made this a much better poem and I am in his debt.

43 thoughts on “Penelope to Her Husband

      • I will check out your poem with pleasure:) And thank you for the kind words about “Hercules”. I have obsessions with the stars and with mythology, and often the two cross:) I have completed a Zodiac cycle of poems (which you can find here http://fridayamszodiac.wordpress.com/) and now I am exploring the rest of the heavens:)

        You have a gift I hope you will continue to develop.

  1. Oh my, I didn’t know it would be this long! This is a delicious representation of the sea (I’d drink the sea after reading this if it weren’t so salty).
    It’s so beautiful. I think you’ve described the sea and “woven” it with threading as if they are made of the same blanket. You’ve mentioned the sea in about 20 different ways, I think I’d tire before accomplishing the same. Bravo. Your efforts are appreciated. And a star for team work with Tony.

  2. Hi Kathleen,
    I’ve read this through to the end again – lost count of how many times that makes – and it’s still a pleasure to read. I am glad that you are pleased with it, and that it has obviously struck a chord with other people too. You deserve all the plaudits that come your way.

  3. love the story telling here…all the images…your really took me on a journey….a beggarman with the blue eyes of a sailor and hero… love this..i so can see him… and cool on tony doing the edits as well

  4. This is an epic poem, lush and full of colors ~ The weaving and stitching made this journey very worthwhile ~ If I may say so, this should be published ~

    I am happy that you have persevered in finishing this with Tony’s help ~ Cheers ~

  5. smiles….very cool verse….i lived for a year with a weaver…she had a large loom int he great room and sometimes i would go sit and watch her at her work…the part that really spoke to me and the journey i have been on the last bit…

    I drew back the loose
    golden thread
    and unraveled years of work
    until I reached the clearer waters
    of the earliest months.
    Then, in the morning light,
    I began to thread the loom
    anew.

    smiles…yes, that bit did it for me…smiles

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