This was a dreadful mistake, I thought,
as rabid, mobocratic spectators
touted and vaunted the popular favorite
who attitudinized to yet greater acclaim.
For my part, I yawned and turned aside,
scratching my crotch, staring out to sea,
pretending not to notice.
By contrast, I maintained a deportment
throughout betraying little of my nerves,
and even less of my scruples.
To this day I don’t know what I was thinking
in agreeing to a poetry contest between
Homer and I, who are nothing alike:
he wandered high and low and recited;
I tethered myself to the land, stony and uneven,
harvesting wheat strains and nursing olive groves.
He roamed far and wide with walking staff and satchel,
while I trudged back and forth with sickle and scythe.
Yet in that moment we faced one another
with ardent adherents on either side
to determine once and for all
who was poet laureate and who was poetaster.
In the overworld, I fathom, Dionysus and Apollo
themselves took sides. Still, Zeus alone
would ultimately decide one way or the other.
For this reason I calmed before Hellas’ partisans
and declaimed a pragmatic disquisition
on the value of moil, land, and resignation to fate,
growing fervid as I was buoyed on rhetoric’s crest
but giving no thought whatever to the throng’s response,
whether encomium or excoriation.
None was more taken aback when, after
waves of wavering quavered the audience,
the name Hesiod was enounced; as I recall,
I myself shuddered. I shudder even now as I recall.
Homer, to his credit, remained insouciant,
saluting me then moving along as was his wont.
Personally, the agon was momentous, a trice
in which I felt transported to Olympus’ summit,
an instant of mythic proportions, in my lifetime
never before seen, never since surpassed.
Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. (Hon.) in Drama and English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry has been published variously in Canada, U.S.A., England, Ireland, Greece, Romania, Israel, India, Pakistan, and Singapore. www.brandonmarlon.com.