Old age, Tolstoy wrote, is the biggest surprise
In a man's life. So true! Childhood hours
In the ancient car I now recall, the hot months,
Sox game on the radio, soporific Bob Elson
Mumbling in the microphone, "Um, strike one,"
And at bat Sherman Lollar, sloth-like catcher,
Elson droning, "Ball four. It's a base on balls,"
Henri Bergson called this perceived duration,
The sense of time as elastic phenomenon
Stretched or compressed by stoic's fortitude
Or child's impatience: "Are we there yet?"
And this is where the surprise comes in.
Yes, my good man, you have arrived there.
Yes, you are there all right, ya big dummy.
In fact, you've already been there for a whie
Except "there" is not "where" or even "what"
You would have imagined. "There" is "here,"
Wherever you happen to be at the time.
As the snail everywhere bears its shell,
You and the destination are one now,
Not where you're going but what you are.
But we will grieve not, as Wordsworth wrote.
Or perhaps we will grieve. Shall we? No matter,
It doesn't really amount to a hill of beans.
That's just how the cookie crumbles,
That was the funeral of Hector.
-- Mitch Sisskind
Veteran sportscaster Mitch Sisskind, prize-winning author of "Monsters of the Midway," who has covered the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a career spanning four decades, has now branched out in verse and written his "Iliad." My source is Pierre Menard, who under a pseudonym acted as the first United States citizen with a French first name ever to be a president's press secretary. To call Menard an informed source is to obfuscate the understatement. For those not in the know, a brief synopsis is in order.
Back in the day, Menard flexed his chutzpah chops by dropping his last name in favor of that of the notoriously reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye." His project: to write, with word-for-word fidelity to the original, "The Catcher in the Rye" with the difference that the book became an allegory of the life of Roy Campanella, catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in their heyday, who befriended pitcher Don Newcombe in his losing battle with rye, bourbon, scotch, and Canadian whiskey.
It was at this point that the soi-disant Pierre Salinger adopted the pseudonym of Mitch Sisskind.
On a dare from Deejay Shap and Larry Weed, Sisskind agreed to hole himself up in a Hilton hotel -- the one in Pisa known to the natives as the "tiltin' Hilton" -- for twenty-four hours with no books or reading material handy except the Gideon Bible and the San Francisco Chronicle. At two hour intervals a hotel staffer would knock on the door saying "My name is Alan, and if it isn't Alan, it's Donald" and offering snacks: "Coffee's a dime." But Sisskind vowed to disregard any such temptation and to limit his responses to the names of wrestling holds.
By the end of twenty-four hours Sisskind had written his Iliad after escaping from handcuffs and leg-chains. He then took a bath, watched porn on demand, had a Coke, read three war novels by Herman Wouk, James Jones, and Norman Mailer, and became a gemologist. We post the written results above and invite readers to compare the lines with the Homeric original (chapter 22: pages 397-411 in Rieu's prose translation; or see Lattimore, lines 265-261). "There is no question in my mind that Achilleus was the greatest athlete of all time," Sisskind told Janet Benderman in their Partizansky Review interview of 2008. "Achilleus was god's man, less mortal than divine."
About his accomplishment Sisskind said, "I did not write The Iliad. I wrote my Iliad, and I called it 'Iliad,' for each of us must have his own Iliad, alas, do we not?"
"Iliad" is posted together with other compelling works -- by Angela Ball, Terence Winch, Sharon Mesmer, Jim Cummins, Ron Padgett, Led Upton, Bill Zavatsky, and worthy others including Denise Duhamel, guest editor of the 2013 edition of Best American Poetry -- in the one-shot, hot-shot, big-hit lit mag that Martin Stannard put together for the world to see on August 1, 2013. -- DL