Lines From a Single Dad
My city fell and I must let it lie -
each building now rubble and its name, ash.
Some swarthy intruder ripped down the walls
that rose around me and my wife told me
cold my future was elsewhere, without her.
I packed what would fit within a heart’s walls, …
About the poem
This poem appeared on the Beautiful Losers website in September 2017.
This poem is one of a sequence inspired by Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid. There are many things that fascinate me about that book, but one of the most constant is how the hero Aeneas is portrayed. He is a great figure in Roman mythology and yet, in the Aeneid, he is incredibly human. He is buffeted by fate and the will of the gods, but his focus is on his duty as a Trojan and as a father.
The title references the fact that Aeneas loses his wife during the sack of Troy and is then something that may be considered a rather modern concept, a single father. His devotion to his son his absolute, he literally travels to hell and back to be assured his son's future. What strikes me is that Aeneas is one of the great classical heroes, and yet he does not have the attributes we immediately associate with heroes, such as military might or a spirit of adventure. He is portrayed as a strong man but also as a single parent, an immigrant looking for a better life for himself, his family and his people. It saddens me that these attributes aren't always valued a heroic in modern society in the same way that we still use models of Hercules or Odysseus to represent masculinity. Perhaps if we saw immigrants as heroes in the classical mould, they'd receive the respect and support they need. If being a good father were considered as heroic as wielding a mighty sword, then we'd see more diverse and less toxic masculine traits being idealised.
Aeneas is, in every sense, a modern hero. He may have been eclipsed by figures such as Odysseus in the past, but it feels like the right time to bring his story forward and celebrate a new model of masculine heroism.