by Brendan Sullivan
Those thousand ships
you launched
still haunt this pier
where old men sip beer
from plastic cups,
wishing their pants
remembered yesteryear,
and I just watch the gulls
crash into the pilings.
You were no mermaid,
no Circe of my seven seas.
You just loved
the art of drowning –
watching strong men
go down for you,
your charms
a tempest in my bed.
Steal me, then –
this stench of bait
and phosporus that stiffens waves
and makes me
walk on water.
For your face
has become a vanishing act
and I need to remember
what keeps breathing
in these nets of yours.

0 thoughts on “Helen

  1. Wow. Tying together Helen of Troy with modern day, the classical with the shabby. Almost every line cuts both ways. “Old men…wishing their pants remembered yesterday” speaks to a man’s potent youth but also times when a man could start a war by abducting a woman. The poet associates Helen with Circe, and the Sirens: “You just loved the art of drowning–watching strong men go down for you.” A great perspective on a mythological past when women had such power over men, and still do–“your charms a tempest in my bed.” Yet, while unmasking her potent charm to show its malevolent self-indulgence, the poet calls upon the old stinking fishermen to steal him–as Helen was stolen–into steeling his confrontation with such amorous captivation, in this day and any time, “to remember what keeps breathing in these nets of yours.” Which could be, and may have been, him.

  2. i really don’t like helen(e), or any of the ‘heroines’ of greek &roman mythology whose one superpower they have going for them is being the most beautiful woman ever-having babies by a zillion different men like there is no tomorrow and either being damsels in distress or complete bitches. like how i imagine helene. she’s a real misogynistic character if you ask me. not having a penis to think from, which i am almost decidedly certain this poem is about, i can’t relate. give me echo, give me medusa, give me electra, give me psyche and any of the amazons over damn boring ol’ cheating helen of troy any day. wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get our way out of the reprecussions of our morally wrong behavior by manipulating men with stiffies. as for circe, she’s a great inspiration as are the sirens for line drawings.

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