Messenger, courier, bearer of commands, he is the god assigned to dart down to give Calypso the unwelcome news she must release Odysseus from her island. Having said his piece, he gets to zoom back up to Mount Olympus. As for the mess that nymphs as well as men fall heir to — loss and jealousy and grief — he lets her mop it up. These days, he's less of a separator than a joiner. A facilitator (chat rooms, message boards) who steers adopted children toward their birth mothers, speeds classmates trying to trace classmates, terrorists looking for like-minded friends, he's busier than ever. But the end of every task is just as Homer tells it: lightly he steps away from our entanglement into a neutral zone, an endless noon immune to disappointment and desire.
From Laws: Poems, by Rachel Hadas, Lincoln: Zoo Press, 2004. Reprinted with the kind permission of the author.
Image: Head of Hermes. A fragment of a kylix (drinking cup), Attic, 490–480 BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2011.604.1.515.