Ode to Dorothy Gale

This story is paired with our introduction to Bulfinch’s Mythology. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 

Tell me, O muse,
of L. Frank Baum’s naïf:
like Odysseus,
she suffered homesickness and grief.

Like Odysseus,
the home she pined for was a farm.
She wore a farm girl’s dress.
She swung a basket on her arm.

Like Odysseus,
she led a straggling ragtag crew.
Odysseus’s friends plied wooden oars.
Miss Gale’s friends buffed her ruby shoes.

Decked in pleats and plaits,
ensnarled by plot and plight,
she plodded and she pleaded
through the cyclone-upturned night.

She pled for favors from
a band of witches, fairy sprites.
She coaxed the pink one, “Help me home!”
She begged the green one, “Spare my life!”

But Odysseus
behaved no differently.
He coaxed fair Circe, “Kiss my lips!”
He begged Calypso, “Mount my knee!”

Odysseus wiped
the smug look from a cyclops’s face.
Dorothy put
a fraudulent wizard in his place.

Starry eyes framed by
a pair of glossy tassels,
Miss Gale prevailed, acclaimed by
her straw-made, tin-made, leonine vassals.

I didn’t read the Odyssey
until I was sixteen.
It was the film The Wizard of Oz
that shaped my childhood dreams:

Dorothy’s epic song
taught me, another Midwest kid,
that even a neglected orphaned long-
haired girl can’t bid

adieu to Kansas,
adieu to Ithacan fields,
without a backward glance, and backward glances
never heal.

NBR4LephotosmallJenna Lê is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011), which was a Small Press Poetry Bestseller. Her poetry, fiction, essays, book criticism, and translations have appeared in AGNI Online, Barrow Street, Bellevue Literary Review, Massachusetts Review, Measure, Pleiades, and 32 Poems. She was born and raised in Minnesota, but now lives in New York, where she works as a physician.