Pity the poor workhorse Philoctetes.
He smokes, watches lightning over the graves,
Exiled to a swampy, littered ruin.
Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus—
Writers love him, or his predicament.
He’s too foul to have around, but in a crisis
He’s wanted, despite the cups of puss
That leak from his heel. They need the bow bent
By the one they revile but suddenly miss.
Their tragic strophes cleverly squeezed
Some sad sense from his life—outcast who saves
Those who change their minds when they want to win:
Stranded, pointless, despised until the day
They return to bring him back to the fray.
–- Ernest Hilbert
Originally in Georgetown Review