A Consolation to a Singing Bartender

by Wendell Smith

for L. J.

Homer knew. People want to be entertained
but they don’t want to pay much for it,
at most some skins to sleep on and a meal.

Because you can’t see and need help eating
you sing a satire.
Filled with bombastic guys
who get it on by running all over the wine dark sea
to kill each other and rape women.
And as you knew they would, your masters miss the joke.

(Thus is the birth of heroic literature:
a blinded man talking fast to stay alive
and remain true to himself at the same time.)

And you become nearly as immortal as the Gods.
Zeus all but forgotten except as he’s mentioned
in a few of your anecdotes
“slipping it to Europa”
or leaving us through Leda
that question: “Did she put on his knowledge?”
What was in it for her?
Morning sickness and a long labor?
Or did the Lightning Hurler pick
one who could really pop them out?
Is it a comfort to know that we now
pay more attention to your words than we do to Zeus?
Or would you rather be young again
watching your woman step from the bath
before they took your eyes
and left you with nothing to look at but the truth.

(first appeared in
Constellations vol. 1)