Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man who bravely sought,
in fair Hellenic isles, respite from labor’s
endless stress and taxing working hours
Many unknown cities he saw, and their hotels,
many missed connections he suffered, much
upsetting turbulence and vile airline food.
Tell now, Muse, how valiantly he strove
against the blocks and barriers of unkind fate.
By now, that narcoleptic jet-lagged king, Odysseus,
by cunning artifice had fled the stifling plane,
and bursting from the jetway bridge had breathed
the sprightly sunlit air of Athens Airport terminal two.
Glancing back he swore against the goddess Delta,
upon whose flimsy trays and creaking seats
Odysseus invoked the curse of Father Zeus.
But when the wheeling baggage reclaim carousel
brought all the bags around, and thrice again,
he found that his was missing, thrown off course
to some dark corner of the world by vicious Delta,
scheming Queen of Lost and Misplaced Luggage,
whom now Odysseus condemned once more,
then whirled in anger, and with violent thunderous strides
bore down upon the agent at the service desk.
Eyes afire, bold Odysseus drew mighty Oxford’s
Greek and English dictionary, hallowed weapon
forged by gods, and pocket-sized for easy use.
But, unable in his rage to navigate the sacred book,
he fumbled the translation, blurting phrases
known not even to the fearless king himself:
“How not oats that winding shrub beyond the flight
instead but I am very angry, yes six wrong
giraffe my bags are?”
So inquired Odysseus,
and glared up at the sleepy nonplussed man
who asked in bored and rapid Greek to please explain
again to him just what the problem seemed to be?
And now Odysseus had just about had it.
“Oh accursed, wretched Oxford!” cried the king in native tongue,
“unhelpful thing, you damned and shameful book,
oh misleading and confusing letters, may you rot
in ignominy, may I look no more upon you!”
In a flash he seized the book in hand,
and mustering what strength remained within
he hurled the tome full force across the room,
thrashing wild and without heed of where it flew.
Alas! For here the gods had preordained
for poor Odysseus more pain and grief;
the book struck home—a hard true hit
below the knee of a nearby airport guard!
“Oh shit,” Odysseus exclaimed, too late,
and as security surrounded him
the gallant king protested loud his lowly fate,
unfair that he must bear this burden, he of all men.
But it brought no pity from the officers, not at all.
Still miles from his destination, Kythira,
which was some place suggested by his travel nymph,
Odysseus, his belly racked by hunger, stopped
at a café to grab a bite or two to eat.
A nimble waitress there addressed him:
“Noble traveler, you have wandered far,
I see it plainly in your tired eyes, so tell me
what ambrosia may I offer now to heal you,
set to rest your restless hunger and parched thirst?
We have juice of apricots and peaches both,
of grapefruits grown on handsome Mykonos.
Or if it’s spirits you desire, we can set before you
wines from wondrous distant lands, to lift the haze
of grave unease, and cheer your weary heart.”
Odysseus paused a moment, then spoke: “Um…sorry,
I did not understand. Can you please say that again,
but more slow?”
Pointing on the menu so Odysseus could see,
in English now she read it out a second time
until the king demanded that she bring to him
a banquet: seven muffins piled high upon
a bed of chopped up fruit and with no less than three
whole things of baklava, one cup of coffee
and a plate of saganaki, whatever that was.
The work done, the feast laid out, he ate well
and no one’s hunger lack a proper share of supper.
But when he stood and reached down for his wallet,
both his pockets turned up empty, nothing there;
the king had once again been robbed by fickle fate,
or maybe by that shifty guy who sold him hash.
So thinking quick, he pushed the waitress to the ground
and brave Odysseus ran swiftly out the door.
The waitress shook a furious fist and shouted:
“Come back here, you shameless, brainless vagabond,
and pay at once, or else the cost falls right to me;
you ought to know there is a special place in Hades
kept for those who dine and dash so recklessly.
But since you will not pay your share, you fiend,
therefore I cry out to the everlasting gods in hopes
that they will pay you back with cruel revenge
and cause the sand to always find its way inside
your clothes and food and brand new camera!”
And to seal her prayer, farseeing Zeus sent down a sign.
He launched two eagles, soaring high from a mountain ridge,
and seeing them Odysseus cried out in woe,
for now he knew for sure today was not his day.