Waiting on Odysseus

This selection is paired with Book 2 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get Issue 22 of NonBinary Review from Zoetic Press.

my friend and I were talking about our online dating experiences and he asked me what I was looking for in a man and I said, I am waiting on Odysseus, and he couldn’t stop laughing

they deem themselves Prince Charmings
all sweet and words
pour sugar onto shit
and promise the world

caught up in his own smarts
spins out hefty thinking
acts impressed/surprised I understand

hides his empty under a uniform
thinks my wild is refreshing
until he can’t keep it down

broken men
come up from addictions/afflictions
wonder if I’m home plate
wonder if I can fill the job description of woman wanted

pot-bellied ex-classmates/random strangers
living in broken marriages
see my beautiful and mysterious face as the light
at the end of their boring domestic tunnel

old and young lined up in front of my cage
sticking their dicks through the bars
their pretty words seep
in flood of stink

used to be I’d soak it all up
offer them tea and quiet
massage away their pains
while I considered the possibility

now I pace

in front of the maze I’ve built
with my stories and poems
my kids sheltered far enough inside
they don’t hear the cat-calling

no one
is coming through these bars again
not even Odysseus
with his significant adventures

he waited too long
and I’m no Penelope
waiting waiting waiting
on possibility and hope

I took up with several of the suitors
Eurymachus was the smoothest and the worst
kicked him out too
what kind of man is jealous of a woman’s son?

no more waiting, stitching
the only time past childhood that I stitched
was when I had to lie down for months
so my sons wouldn’t get born too soon

though no Anticlea
it’s the sons I will wait for
Odysseus, this is my home
you are no longer welcome

Laila Halaby is the author of two novels, Once in a Promised Land and West of the Jordan, as well as a collection of poetry my name on his tongue.