by William Furley

"You can keep your floating island,
your palaces of marble and gold,
your laced cocktails on the verandah,
and food from all round the world;

You can keep your king-size bed
filled with down from young swans,
your charms which turn admirers
into mindless automatons ...

And you, you can keep your cave
with maiden-hair the name of fern
in clefts of cave-walls dripping
with the waters of no-return,

your relatives on Mt Olympus,
your blandishments and promises
to make me immortal on condition
I forget my name is Ulysses.

And you, teenage bathing beauty
playing beachball on the sand
how can you look at me, a naked
castaway, as a potential husband?

Marry one your father will approve,
a local prince of noble lineage,
don't tempt me into thinking
you could wind back my middle age,"

He said, tying the ropes of a raft
not fit for the thousand miles
of rough ocean between this place
and a half-remembered rocky isle.

"Give me that woman whose name
means seabird skimming the waves
whose face lights up my memory
like a lantern in a dark cave,

who may or may not be waiting
for me after twenty long years
surrounded by a pack of suitors
like wolves around an injured deer,

who, by report, spends her nights
unpicking the tapestry she sewed
by day, outwitting time, refusing
to believe she may by now be widowed,

sleeping on the oak bed I made,
making the maid repeat, not prayers,
but the exact same words I'd used
when I freed my hands from hers."

©William Furley