30/30 – Day 3

by leahatherton13

Written in about half an hour at work, printed out and performed this evening at Poetry Jam.

Inspired by Jeanann Verlee’s phenomenal poem on Jezebel, which can be found here: ‘Jezebel Revisits the Book of Kings


Andromache Revisits Troy

It has been years since I saw the Aegean from this side,
and time has swept clean the sand on the beach head.
Here and there the husk of a ship rises from the dunes,
bleached ribs blackened where fire swept across them
that final year of the war.
The walls have all but gone now, no higher than my hips
but once they stood white and gold in the sun
higher than the cedars and the breadth of six warriors abreast,
impregnable they called us, unassailable.
They were wrong.

I was brought here from Cicilian Thebe,
not a concubine but a wife won with sweet words and gifts of silk
Hector stood by my side and was proud to call me lover,
I was queen attendant on Hekabe, ear to Priam’s counsel,
but I have a long acquaintance with cities due to fall.

They remember me as obedient wife and mother,
tell how I did not hear of Hector’s death until nightfall
how I was at home in the palace walls preparing a bath for his return
but he knew this was his last duel, and begged me not to watch
and for him, only him, I forsook my vigil on the city walls.

The news, when it came, was slow in the telling,
Hector fallen, Achilles triumphant and raging outside the gates,
dragging the body behind his chariot in vengeance for an accidental death
Muse, do not sing to me of his rage, of the tireless violence in is arm
do not sing to me about the nameless red and grey splattered up his face.

It was only a question of time then. Time, and cunning;
so many dead, and we had no strength left in us to fight on.

It is not given to we women to choose the spans of our marriages,
And they expected me to mourn for show,
but every tear I shed tore through my chest like fever,
hot and cold knotting my insides and clawing my lungs.

Would that Achilles had only finished what he started in Thebe
and killed me instead,
I was but a woman and well used to shame and blood,
better he had dragged me around the walls
than to see loyal Hector brought low,
eyes the colour of the Aegean at night staring open,
sand and stone raking all that was familiar from that beloved face,
but I still knew his eyes; they haunt me even now
in the dark hours before sunrise, and I would give anything
to have him beside me once more,
his body a wall more solid and unassailable than the stone surrounding us,
I could have withstood the pain for him.

When they finally came for us, it was not in me to fein surprise.
My son, I hid in a tomb built for the Trojan kings,
protecting our future within the cool silence of our past,
I stood upon the ramparts as they slew Priam and Hekabe
and I faced them down with all the pride of a queen.

It was Phyrrus who broke my arm when they pulled him from the dark,
and even then I fought; I was no longer a woman but a mother enraged,
I fought with every ounce of will I had left, from the moment they found him
to the moment they decided what should be done with the heir apparent to Illium.
They threw him from the walls, pulled his small body from my arms
to be dashed upon the broken shields of fallen Greeks,
and I knew then that it was over.

Asherat, when Baal slew your son you raised a volcano,
and your howls echoed across the sea to drive men mad,
for we are not made to survive an immortal’s grief; I barely survived my own.
If I could, I would have raised my arm,
would have cut off the breast from which they took him
bloodied my soft hands to callous and claw and rained down
trailing destruction in my wake like a vengeful Fury,
but these hands are soft and small,
too easily pinned and I had no more strength for rage,
they took me too, carried me from the walls to faraway Greece.

The city of Troy burned that night.
Some soldier got careless, some anger grew too hot, and the city burned.
They say that I was mad in those hours, that in my madness I laughed.
In those hours, I was no more a woman but a spirit of storm,
and there was nothing human that remained in my gaze.
The city of Troy burned that night,
and in my private hurricane of loss, I rejoiced in the destruction.
Asherat, I understand better your grief now,
and when the flames consumed the city, when the marble glowed red
and they licked up the Tower of Ilios like a lover’s throat,
I did not laugh.
I howled.