This poem is from the Winter 2016 of The Antioch Review.
“MY FIRST ESCAPE”
by Garret Keizer
In my hands, I had a copy of the “Iliad”
in the Russian hexameter of Gnyeditch;
in my pocket, a passport made out in the name
of Trotsky, which I wrote in it at random,
without even imagining that it would become
my name for the rest of my life.
Thus he makes his first escape—
from Siberia into his fixed identity.
Homer, too, might be a pseudonym,
might not have been one man.
Collective authorship—the Marxist
in him must have smiled at the thought.
He believes in history
more than in himself,
is not dismayed by randomness.
A losing streak is merely that,
a streak on the windowpane
of his railway carriage speeding west.
Years later a case of flu contracted
duck hunting on the River Dubna
will keep him from Lenin’s funeral
and from the struggle for succession,
as the quarrel over Brisêis,
will keep Achilles in his tent the day
when Hector nearly torched the ships.
Nearly. Homer does not bother
to tell us of the wooden horse, the arrow
in the hero’s heel. He assumes we know
where all of this is going.
Garret Keizer is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the author of eight books of prose, the most recent of which are Getting Schooled, Privacy, and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want. His poetry has appeared in a number of publications, including Agni, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Hudson Review, Image, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Raritan, and The Best American Poetry.
© 2016 The Antioch Review