Odysseus' guide to life



Selected poems


The book of the year

Each year they retreat to the closet

Take the latest editions and read.

Some time later, digestion complete, they broadcast

              'The Book of the Year'

What I prefer is 'The Book of a Lifetime'

A handbook to the drama

Of living and dying,

A testament to the mythologies

That we enact day by day.


He may be proud, even arrogant, but he's fun,

With Odysseus you read yourself

His company is exciting and revealing,

So much so that his homecoming

Is everyone's domesticity with a wife, a son

A dog and a nurse, some dead suitors and Ithacan wine.





Homage to the Princess tree

This morning there are two wattlebirds in the Princess tree.

There's nothing there for them that I can see,

Yet the silver bells are shaking, the leaves shivering.

But the flowers of blood have all gone, retiring

For another season, self-sustaining in their absence.

They have the time and the leisure to prepare the next presence

As complete and sentient as it needs to be

In all the next flights into the Princess tree.


There is no harvest now, just a strange figuration,

We see the line and the shine of the ploughshares, the shave-curled turf,

Knowing from all we know that abundance is for all,

Below and above. It's an excitement we share with all,

The fabric of earth's story and the wattlebird's voice

Is true to itself, pleases itself, what more is needed?





Reflections on Marianne Moore's 'To a snail'

He broadcast with bravado that he had a 'snail shell',

Dried and free of the soft interior squelch,

And of the trailblazing that makes a map

Of movements and whereabouts, habitations and habits.


She called the shell 'occipital',

— She loved language and words —

A sort of unencumbered, mobile skull.

Thoughtful compression. Was she, do you think, being

'The literalist of the imagination'?


The garden invader was a figure of style,

An exponent of grace, unity itself.


We should discard the Defender,

And say good-bye to Slug-go,

See for ourselves what we can make

Of Toby's remnant relic,

In its little kingdom of harmony.




Retired school principal, judge and poet Peter Gebhardt died in July 2017 at the age of 81. His most recent book was Black and White Onyx: New and Selected.

Topic tags: Poetry, Peter Gebhardt, the Odyssey



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Existing comments

john frawley | 27 August 2019

Here's a bit of odd synchronicity. By chance, right now I'm reading, and loving, the Odyssey. Two different translations are here beside me as I read Peter Gebhardt's words. I just love what he wrote!
Frances Letters | 01 September 2019

Peter deserves plaudits and thanks for conveying so evocatively and convincingly the universal themes of Homer's classic and the traits of its adventurous, resourceful and indomitable hero.
John RD | 03 September 2019


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