after The Iliad, Book Seven
Even as landlord of lightning & sky,
I couldn’t stop inhumanity, so I
disguised myself as a shower of coins,
a plant sprouting flames, a rapacious swan.
I whorled into Agamemnon’s conscience,
convinced Meneleus to fling his sword
onto bloodied sand. Truth is—Achaeans
believed their hubris. Throngs drew lotteries.
With an ox-hide shield, Ajax lunged: the Greeks’
ruthless warrior. Hektor arrived in
a lash of cape & dark curls. Above them, we
tightened victory’s threads. Mortals frayed them.
Outrage over Helen’s abduction was
overblown. War inflamed brains. Hektor &
Aias thrust spears, scrawled blood. (I interfered
with human affairs less than Homer would
have you believe.) When Ajax slashed Hektor,
I sobbed. Steel shrieked, voices shrilling in wind.
Night. Campfires charcoaled shadows: faces of
the dead. Achaeans wrapped bloodied remains
in salted sheets, lined on pyres like sweets to
be baked. Fire’s ragged iridescence tongued
torsos. Mortals chanted anapests, prayed
over mothers’ stooped heads. Nestor lamented:
“We plant disemboweled boys in the Earth.
Now, we must rebuild—stone upon bone, post-
&-lintel, to protect families. Hoofbeats
rumble—the enemy nears.” But neither
Nestor nor the Greeks saw how the Trojans
bled the same pleas, wailed over their losses,
fueled their hate. Both sides hammered their pyres, fed
black sesame seeds to their dead. As we
peered from Olympian ether, factions
diappeared. To incite change—letting each
side think they’d devised it—I spun into
their thoughts, entered the poorly-lit portal
of empathy, breathed as a glassblower
plays his fiery pipe. A fragile truce
allowed the living to burn their legions:
some without faces, hands, names. Branches clawed
the moon. Scalding voices rose from the house
of Hades. Laments grew, fused into one
keen. They saw the enemy as themselves.
Read more of Dean Kostos’s poetry.
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