In the Wake of Brave Ulysses

…they prepared a rotten carcass of a boat, not rigg’d,
nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats instinctively had quit it…

Out of the Phoenician coast an armada sails west,
the sailors all uncertain of the sea. Behind them the beast

of conflict barks at their departure; before them Poseidon
stirs the waves dark then darker. Those who don’t drown

gaze at the same useless stars that guided the Greeks
home from Troy, counting the cost with the shipwrecks

and miles. Others become flotsam, unaccounted for
until the morning tide returns their bodies to the shore

where the early sun spills like milk across Bodrum
as tourists hit the beach. Here’s me in my costume,

taking a dip, paddling in the wake of brave Ulysses.
And look. Those are pearls that were his eyes.

Illustration by Harry IbachPoet: Al McClimens
Illustrated by Harry Ibach

This poem was Commended in The Poems Please Me Prize 2015

Al is a student on the MA (Creative Writing) at Sheffield Hallam University. He is currently trying to develop the ‘killer’ sonnet by mashing aspects of the cento with Petrarch. Keats can rest easy.

See other illustrations of this and all winning and commended poems in our eBook Red on Bone