Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Cretonnes of Penelope

Joseph Harrison

How stupid Penelope's suitors must have been,
Each morning as they elbowed for a place
Near her, and cocked their wits, eyeing each other,
Never to notice yesterday's tapestry
Had disappeared, like every day's before.

They kept maneuvering, and they kept score,
Each trying to get the better of this brother.
So each day's small creation went unseen
Unless some maid in waiting saw that face
Glancing from corners of the tapestry.

She wove a glimpse of him in every scene
She patterned on the vanishing tapestry.
Nor did it have to be obliquely traced
To fool the fools not looking any more,
Who couldn't tell one figure from another.

But if this game was all, she wanted more,
One friend (it wouldn't have to be a lover)
Who saw how the resourceful tapestry's
Long lesson in how never quite to mean
Inscribed the careful lines upon her face.

At night when she ripped up the tapestry
She felt she'd run a marathon in place.
Her sole delight was her most painful chore.
She knew she couldn't make it new again.
But when the sun came up she started over.


dan1968 said...


A heavy unglazed cotton, linen, or rayon fabric, colorfully printed and used for draperies and slipcovers.
After Creton, a village of northwest France

the wife of Odysseus. she remained faithful to him during his long absence at Troy

dan1968 said...



A person afflicted with cretinism.
Slang: An idiot

Anonymous said...

This poem is a nephew of Wallace Stevens' "The World as Meditation."