At the Santa Monica DMV; Troy; Ctimene

C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

At the Santa Monica DMV; Troy; Ctimene

By: Noah B. Salamon


At the Santa Monica DMV

The woman ahead of me

cannot be 27. She

is not quite blonde


(the writing on her form is

elegant and looping, suggesting

whimsy) -- but


at the Santa Monica DMV

she conjures a favorite version

of her self


into the database

and all those polished selves

create a golden dream


sometimes, they even let you

retake the headshot





Troy

He first heard Homer

through wine-stained teeth --

beard still stained from supper

a drunk -- as he stocked shelves


in Brandenberg, before

he took ship

for Venezuela -- (he never

made it) -- sold gold


in California, and indigo

in Russia -- but never forgot

the intoxicated dactyls


And when he used his treasure

to dig for Priam’s, no one

believed he would find anything --

maybe some stray gold to smuggle --


But his wife wore

on her splendid brow

the jewels he thought Helen left behind

as she watched the towers burn





Ctimene

He -- only he -- backed away

from that charmed and charming home

peopled by those strange animals

who knelt and gnawed

but never growled


I was lonely then too

lonely as Penelope, lonely

as only a sister can be, how

I spent my days --

no one noticed


Honor is in my name, value --

but I am not the one they

sing about. Brother -- king

he took with him my husband --

mother followed too


I see them only

in glimpses of filtered light

on the backs of waves




Noah B. Salamon is the English Department Chair at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, California. He received his MA in English from Loyola Marymount University. HIs chapbook A Series of Moments was recently published by Finishing Line Press, and his poetry has appeared in such journals as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Stillwater Review, New Limestone Review, and HCE Review. His essay “The Transformative Effect of Color in the Poetry of Tomas Tranströmer” was published on the World Literature Today blog in 2014.


“At the Santa Monica DMV" speaks to that fabled California desire to reinvent the self. I thought about the collective effect of this desire. Why Santa Monica? Maybe because of the meter and timbre of the words “Santa Monica,” and maybe because of the role Santa Monica plays in the collective imagination as the beachy, sun-soaked, western terminus of LA. (It bears adding that this is poetry, not history, and not an endorsement of the character’s (possible) stretching of the truth.)


"Troy" is based on the story of Heinrich Schliemann, which I invite readers to discover for themselves. I have taken some poetic license -- I do not know, for example, if the miller Schliemann heard reciting Troy had a beard - I have imagined the scene. Schliemann thought he found Homer’s Troy, and he probably did, but the items he found dubbed “Priam’s Treasure,” (including “The Jewels of Helen”), some of which Schliemann’s wife wore in a famous photo, probably predate the Troy of Homer’s Iliad (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priam%27s_Treasure).


It was only after reading and teaching Homer’s Odyssey for years that I noticed the single mention of Odysseus’ sister, Ctimene, in Book XV. I thought she deserved a poem (or poems) of her own, even if it isn’t a full epic. There is much more to write, I think, about her story, which is barely alluded to at all in Homer’s work. I imagine her towards the end of the story, having lost her mother and her husband, who journeyed home from Troy with Odysseus. Her husband was the only one who hung back when the scouting party discovered Circe’s hut -- perhaps knowing this gives Ctimene some solace, even pride -- but he did not show similar caution later in the journey, and he did not make it home.

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