sheep in mourning
Photo by David Sea on Unsplash

Polyphemus by Ken Weene

Written August 31, 2021 on the occasion of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan

Poor, one-eyed Polyphemus, how did you deserve

the blind poet’s calumniation? You with no wife,

son, or even loyal dog; and that selfish wanderer,

stealing into your unlocked cave without permission.

The wage of hubris should be tragedy not poetry.

Let Odysseus pluck his own eyes out;

instead that wayward Ithacan took yours

then rushed to raise his sails with mockery,

Blind Cyclops, nobody mourns for you or sings your song.

Should not the poets lyre your cries to distant shores?

Poseidon, Sea God, cause winds to roar and earth

to shake and doom the trickster’s sail go astray.

Palamedes, how many dead have you for Agamemnon tilled?

Deceit has filled the Elysian Fields and wrapped

with death Trojans, Achaeans, courage, beauty, love;

yet left poor Polyphemus scorned and by Nobody wronged.

Would that Menelaus had never adored, that Paris’s eyes

been plucked at birth before desire could set

those thousand ships in vengeance loose at Aulis,

that young Iphigenia’s tears had stayed her father’s hand.

That you, solitary teller of tales had never gazed

on Odysseus or rolled your stone door closed.

Forget the graves and vengeance of man and gods

Sing for poor Polyphemus this loneliest of songs.


Sometimes Ken Weene writes to exorcise demons. Sometimes he writes because the characters in his head demand to be heard. Sometimes he writes because he thinks what he has to say might amuse or even on occasion inform. Mostly, however, he writes because it is a cheaper addiction than drugs, an easier exercise than going to the gym, and a more sociable outlet than sitting at McDonald's drinking coffee with other old farts: in brief because it keeps him just a bit younger and more alive. Ken’s stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications and he has a number of books. His website is here.

Author's note

When I read Homer’s epics in high school, I was taken by a simple underlying lesson: life is unfair. Nowhere did that subtext appear more clearly than in the story of Polyphemus. What right did Odysseus and his men have to invade the Cyclop’s cave, steal from his flock, and refuse to even identify themselves. Pure and simple, no matter what the bard might sing, they were not heroes but thieves—self-righteous thieves at that. Fast forward to the end of August, 2021. The American marauders were finally leaving the bloodied and perhaps even more blinded country of Afghanistan. Yet, whenever we think of the victors, American or ancient Greek, do we not also have to recognize the price they have paid for victory, the sight or insight that they have lost?