Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pick of the Week 6/26/07

Selected by Sara
Calypso is the first story to be posted on the Writopia blog because it is a perfect reflection of what this blog stands for. While intense and moving, it is a wonderfully written and very readable story for tweens and teens alike. The poetic sentences flow with an emotional energy that everyone can relate to and appreciate, and the plot combines boldly expressive scenes with lines of highly evocative description. Calypso is an excellent representation of writing by a New York City teen, and I'm honored to have it as the first post on our blog.


by Clio C.

I can see him now, a tall, beautiful man, tossed by the waves. His black hair and beard tangled and his body bruised, but his fierce grey eyes reflected none of the trials and pain he had been through, no sign of a broken spirit. They were mesmerizing as the sun shone down on his brow and lightened their color. Those two identical gleams were all I saw as he lifted his exhausted body and the waves slid away from him.

I loved him.
Whatever you may hear, that is true. And it is all that matters. They may tell you I imprisoned him. That I kept him from his wife for seven years. But what claim had she on his life? What right that was more than mine?
What love could she have for him greater than the love I bore him? I, who lost him. Who lost everything when a solitary raft disappeared into the horizon, leaving Calypso alone to weep and wish for the day her life would end, and she and misery would be parted forever.

But that day is never to come, for I have the curse of the immortal life. My immortality, which I would have shared with him! There is not one day when I do not curse the Olympians for what they took from me.
Before he came, I was content to live my life with no companions but the wind and waves. But he taught me to care for the company of one other, to enjoy the sound of a voice other than my own.
Now I am alone again, and though I still sing to the air, my voice is hollow in my hollow ears. The Olympians are to blame.
For how can I blame him? What was he to do but go on loving his wife and child? And do everything in his power to get back to them?
And yet, we could have been so happy together! She would have died in time, and he would have forgotten about her in time.

I stood, letting the threads from my loom slip from my fingers.
The wind caught my hair, obscuring my view of him, but I gathered it at the nape of my neck. He swayed, and his shoulders sagged. My feet lifted, and left barely any traces of footprints in the sand as I ran to his side just as his strength gave way and his body collapsed into my arms.
I knelt, cradling his head against me. The water foamed around us, soaking my gown, but I closed my eyes and held him close to me, not feeling the chill that was seeping into me through the water.

That was my one moment of full happiness, holding his unconscious body to my chest, not knowing who he was, or where he came from, or how he would come to hate me when he woke. I only knew I loved him and held him in my arms. I could want nothing else. I never wondered if he had a wife.

I laid him in my bed, his head on my own pillow. I had no guest's room to give to him, for who visited me on my island but the wind and the waves? Who did Calypso see year after year but her own reflection looking back at her from the mirror, untouched by time?
But he was here now.

He did not wake for three days. I dressed his wounds, applying salve to his parched skin, and fed him water, which he swallowed without waking.
For hours at a time, I would sit on the edge of the bed, by his side, simply looking at his face, or stroking his black curls away from his forehead. We were in this position when he awoke, my hand still upon his brow.
As he stirred, I pulled my hand back toward my lap, but the expression on his face halted its flight. He smiled at me. How can I describe what filled my heart when those brilliant grey eyes softened, even lit up, as they beheld my face? I must have looked at him then with all the love I felt radiating from my face.
But there was no return of such affection. How was I to know, in my brief second of overwhelming joy, that his confused eyes had taken me for Penelope?
How could I know that his smile was for her, a woman so far away, whom I had no chance of replacing in his heart?

As he recognized me as a stranger, his eyes hardened, and he frowned at me, suspiciously. I was surprised as I felt my breath catch in my throat as this dreadful expression took over his face.
What did his opinion matter to me? I was a goddess, and he a human. But against my reasoning, I felt my chest tighten.
He demanded to know where he was.

"You are on my Island," I told him, my voice strong despite the pain I felt. "I am Calypso, the nymph who owns this Island. You were washed ashore here, and I took you into my home, and have cared for you these past three days as you lay unconscious."

"I am very grateful to you, Nymph." His voice was sincere. Though gratitude was not what I wanted from him, it eased some of my pain. "But I must leave this island."
All the relief that I had from his thanks was gone. A hole greater than Tartarus itself opened inside me. "I have to get home. To my wife."
His wife. That one word killed whatever hope had been left struggling inside me. But I could not let him go.

"No!" I cried as he stood. I fell at his feet, begging him to stay with me.

"I am sorry," he replied. "But I have been away from my country too long already."

An idea came to me.

"At least tell me your story," I pleaded. "That is the least you owe me, after all I have done for you."

"It is a long one, and full of sorrows. There is nothing in it that you could wish to hear."

"But I do! Every word! Anything that speaks of you must be divine ambrosia to me.
I beg of you, tell me how you came here. Omit nothing, for I will drink your words up as if I had been parched from thirst for years.
Tell me!"

"Very well," he submitted. "But then you must promise to help me off this island, and to my home."

"That will come when you have finished your story," I said, hating myself for the Hermes-like trick I was playing on him. He must have believed I would help him, but since I had not lied directly, nothing bound me to do so.

And so he told me of the Trojan War. That he was King of Ithaca, and had been called to win back the beautiful Helen and capture the great city of Illion.
He spoke of the deeds of all his comrades and foes. I took joy in his every word and smiled in wonder as I saw him building the Trojan horse with the Greek army. I felt his rage of battle and desire for death course through my veins as he told me of the fall of Troy.
And, though I was glad in his accomplishments, I felt sorrow at the death of so wondrous a city.
He told me how he had left Troy after ten years of fighting. Of how he met hardship after hardship, losing men from his crew to deaths more horrible than I could imagine.
I only loved him more as I heard how he had survived. He concluded, saying he had despaired of ever reaching his beautiful home again.

"But I must go! I have delayed here far too long."
It had taken him days to tell me his story, and now he grew restless, anxious to get away from me and on his way again. I was desperate to keep him.

"Oh, but think of what your journey will be!
Did not Polyphemus ask that you would never return home? How can you think that Poseidon will be lenient and only bring you to your beloved shore after long suffering?
Noble Odysseus, you will wander around the world for the rest of your life. Or you could stay here with me.
We will be happy together. I have the power to make you immortal like myself, and we will live without cares until the end of the world!
I can give you as much love, more even, than Penelope can, for what can the passions of a mortal be in comparison to mine? My love will grow through the ages, never ceasing.
Which would you rather, a life of uncertainty and pain, ending in a lonely death, or an everlasting one of pleasure and love with me?"

I could see the indecision in his eyes. However powerful his desire for home was, my attractions held some little power over him.
I prayed that he would give in to the temptation.

"I must choose the uncertain path," he replied at length, and though I heard the regret in his voice, I knew his decision was final. "Whatever you feel for me, Nymph, I cannot return it. My wife has my love; and my son, though he was only an infant when I left him. He is growing into a man now, and I have missed his growth. I must resume my journey back to them. However it ends, I have no choice but to follow that path."

How could he speak so coldly, when I had formed my words with such love? How could he look at me and not change his purpose? What attractions had Penelope that I did not? I must have surpassed her in beauty; her mind could have been no equal to mine, mine that had grown over centuries rather than mere mortal decades.
What did he want? My loyalty to him would have been that of a dog to his master. My love for him would always grow.
I had so much to give; so much more than her. And yet he spurned me. What right had he to turn me away?

"Gracious Nymph," he said, and the unloving tone with which he said 'Nymph' went like a spear to my heart.
He refused to use my name, while my tongue had caressed his. "Help me to leave this island. I need a boat of some sort, or anything that will float."
He moved to go, and I stepped in front of him.

"Move aside," he asked. "I do not want to have to hurt you." Hurt me? I could have laughed. As if he hadn't already hurt me more deeply than I could have imagined.
I had no fear of him now; even my love had vanished in the heat of my anger.

"You think to hurt me, Odysseus? None of your rough handling can hurt me any more than your harsh words already have.
Though you hate me and seek to leave, I will not let you. You cannot leave this island without my permission!"

He reached out and took hold of my arm. His grip tightened on my arm like a vice and I could not break free. He pulled me around and I swung behind him.

"You shall not leave, Odysseus!" I screamed. "No man can leave the Isle of Ogygia against my will!"

He whirled around to look at me. I laughed.
"Yes, you cannot leave unless I will it. Even if you could, where would you go? You have no ship, no provisions, and you do not know in which direction your beloved Ithaca lies."

I watched as the truth of my words sank into him.
Pain filled his beautiful eyes, and the face that had borne up under so much suddenly showed the marks of his suffering. Pity for him filled me and I remembered my love for him.

"I am sorry," I said, turning away from him.

"Do not think on it. I will stay with you until the rains cease."

I felt joy and did not think of when he would leave, only the time he would be with me.
For the rainy season was just beginning, and it would be many months before the first signs of spring peeked through the gloom.

He stayed with me through the fall and the winter, eating at my table, sleeping in my bed, and most precious of all, talking to me throughout the days.
As I sat at my loom, weaving beautiful clothing for him to wear, he told me stories of his many adventures after the fall of Troy. I was filled with adoration of his bravery and intelligence, and sorrow for all he had endured. When he had exhausted these tales, he spoke to me of his wife and son in Ithaca.
Though I was jealous of them for the life they had shared with him, these tales caused me little pain, for he spoke without regret. He expected to see them as soon as the seas were safe again, and in the meantime was content to stay with me.
I saw that he cared for me, and I rejoiced. I saw, too, that I could not compare with Penelope in his eyes, but I did not dwell on that.

I was forced to, though, when winter reached its end, and he talked of setting out upon his journey once more.
He had enjoyed his stay with me, but the time had come for him to go where he belonged. I begged him to stay longer, but, although he pitied me, he remained firm.
He protested that his love for me, though real, was nothing compared to his love for them.

"You have no consideration for me!" I sobbed ungraciously. "As soon as you came here you wanted to leave.
You have never cared for me. All your thoughts have been on getting away from me."

"Dear Nymph, you know that is not true." I looked away, for I did. "I have stayed on this Island with you for many months, and have enjoyed it all.
But now I must ask you to let me go. Will you?" He spoke softly.

I did not reply.

That night, as he lay sleeping, I stood over him, and though I hated myself for practicing such deceit on him, I wove a magic over his eyes so that when he woke he would love me and forget his homeland.
For years, I kept him with me in this way. Each night, I renewed the magic, but as I held him in my arms, I wept. The love he showed for me gave me happiness greater than a mortal woman could have felt.
But I knew if I neglected to renew the magic, he would push me away, all his love for her returned in an instant. My guilt tormented me. I knew that he would be happier away from me, for though he loved me now, some part of him knew something was wrong.
I wanted desperately to set him free. Perhaps it was the sympathy a caged bird feels for another bird in the same situation.
Being entrapped by him myself, I knew his desire to be free, but could not grant him this freedom, and so I wept, for my own unrequited love, and for my weakness in keeping him prisoner.

While he stayed, Athena, Odysseus's friend and protector, became anxious for him to return home.
She begged the other Olympians to compel me to release him, and at last, Hermes was sent. He came to me one night as I sat at my loom.
I was waiting for him, and submitted to his will, and that of the Olympians. I promised to set Odysseus free, and Hermes was gone, leaping into the air and dancing away on his winged sandals.

The next morning, with a numb heart, I went to where Odysseus slept.
I stood watching him for as long as I could bear it. Then I woke him.

"Odysseus," I said. "Cast away your sorrows, for the time has come for you to return to your home.
Come quickly and I will show you how to get off this island."

His eyes brimmed with tears of joy, and he laughed aloud. In the midst of my misery, I felt a prick of happiness for him. I let it grow, filling me with better feeling than I had had for seven long years.
The selfishness of my love fell away, and I was glad to release him, glad that after so much cruelty, I was at last the cause of his joy.

I took him to a place where trees grew, and had him cut the wood he needed to build a boat.
I helped him with my magic, and we both worked with so much desire to see the task finished, that the boat was completed within a week. I filled it with provisions and warm clothing to protect him from the harsh winds of the sea.
We set it upon the waves. At last, the time for his departure was upon us. He took my face between his hands.

"Though you kept me here against my will for seven long years, I forgive you. You have set me free, and helped me on my way.
Thank you, Calypso."

I stared at him in astonishment.
He had called me 'Calypso.' I opened my mouth, but he was gone, sailing away into his uncertain future.
I stood alone on the beach, the water lapping at my toes as the wind whipped around me, tearing the tears from my eyes and blowing them after him.


Nico said...

This story shows the great thing about our blog -- we can all become inspired by others' work, and there is nothing more powerful than that. Though it is not usually my style to read mythology, I thoroughly enjoyed the content and raw material in this story. I commend the author, and to them, I say -- You clearly have talent. It is your job to nurture your creativity and use it effectively. From your interesting choice in stories, I can tell that you have an eclectic writing voice, and therefore, purpose. Just keep it fun, mix it up, and never be afraid to keep taking chances. The great thing about literature is that it can open people up to new things. This author is an example to us all.

Lily said...

I read this all the way through, and it was very powerful and gripping to me, filled with vivid description and a fascinating perspective on this particular tale of mythology. I had heard this myth before, but from the angle of Odysseus, and it is always nice to find a new character to sympathize with. Keep up your amazing descriptive style and keep writing!

Nico said...

Oh, and Sara, I forgot to say: good job on choosing the piece. Also, I think that it truly is relatable because we have all been rejected in some capacity, whether small or great.

Carol said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing. I have never considered myself a writer, but I have been toying with the idea of doing more writing just for my personal pleasure, just as I have always done art for pleasure. It is inspiring to look at other's work in a field in which one is interested. I am happy to see this blog and such an excellent example as the first published piece .