Atlas On His Day Off
by Alan Birkelbach



Atlas on his day off
likes to load up a knapsack
with a couple of sandwiches,
an apple, something salty,
a couple of bottles of water, a towel, and a book.
Then he climbs up on his bike,
one of those with the chubby tires
and a little batinka bell,
and he pedals the five miles, maybe ten,
down to the ocean, taking his time.
He rides until he finds a spot
that isn’t within hey distance of anybody,
and he walks the bicycle out
to just above the surf
and he lays it down so it looks like it’s sleeping.
He spreads the towel out,
pulls out the book, and sits down facing the water.
He likes the sound of the water.
He shrugs his shoulders
to help the wind get the knots out.
He opens the book. He likes reading
Faludy, Rilke, Lorca, Plath.
Even Seneca. He loves Doestoevski
And the weight of all his words.
But today, for perhaps the hundredth time, he reads Homer.
There stands Penelope, challenging the suitors.
And there is the unstrung bow.
And there is Odysseus
who is the only person who can
set the universe straight
with one well-placed and telling pull.





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