Penelope Waits for Odysseus, by Edmund White

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December 2020 Issue [Readings]

Penelope Waits for Odysseus


From a manuscript in progress.

I never doubted you’d return. You’re a man of your word
And this is your kingdom.
But recently I’ve feared you’d find me
Looking like your mother,
Old, creased, age spots blighting my neck and hands,
Torment written across my face.
Even your favorite dog drags one leg now.
When you sailed off, I was young—well,

But now? I’ve waited too long, woven too much, my fingers are
Callused, two teeth are missing,
My neck sags.

I thought I could prove my love by waiting,
But I forgot waiting itself
Would make me not worth waiting for.

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