If only Ken Burns
could get his hands on this footage. Telemachus,
aged eight years, already thickening, athletic
but still uncertain in his movements. The big neighborhood
ballgame against the brutes who would become
known forever as the suitors. Third inning,
towering popup to left. T. calls for it
the whole way, but Odysseus snares it barehanded
just inches above the boy’s outstretched glove.
Not hard to see how such a move might confirm,
I don’t really trust you, son. A boy can spit
into the dirt for comfort, rub at it with his cleated sandal,
but these are the moments that burrow deep,
that fester, only to surface once the boy becomes
a man, armed with a ninety-plus per hour sinker
that dives like a trained falcon — a gift honed alone
chucking rocks against rocky hillsides during long
and fatherless summers beneath the white Ithacan sun.
Odysseus. Broken king. PTSD. Bone-heavy, slower now
of wit and reflex, already an hour or two deep
into his cups. Does he understand his son’s words
carry more of a threat than an entreaty?
In his hands the prince carries two weather-beaten
lumps of broken cow-leather. Hey, Pops, he says,
what say you and me have a quick game of catch?
And holds the gloves out, not quite in offering.
About the Poet
Justin Hamm is the author of a full-length collection of poems, “Lessons in Ruin,” and two poetry chapbooks. His poetry has been awarded the Stanley Hanks Prize from the St. Louis Poetry Center and has appeared in Nimrod, Sugar House Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and New Poetry from the Midwest.