Culture, Poetry

Patroclus, how could you? I’ll never forgive you
for dying. Don’t you remember how we tricked together,
up and down the Aegean? In every port
a dim and inexpensive bar where boys
bought drinks for any sailor dropping in
to warm his sandaled feet by the fire. They were
so beautiful Paris would have left Helen standing there
on that bare Spartan beach and sailed back off
to find them instead. Now you’re dead. Agamemnon
and our Greek soldiers are hurling their smooth bodies
against the Trojans’ spears for that woman. One
woman! The love between men and women is madness.
How can I go on fighting when you’ve left me to sleep
alone in this tent? Did they mean nothing to you,
the kisses I showered on your unblemished thighs?

You let war carry you down into that shaded kingdom
where the dead go on living without us and without me
now that the boatman’s accepted your rusty coin,
ferried you to the other side of the Lethe. Tomorrow
or very soon thereafter, if you press your ear
to the vaults of Hades’ underworldly colony,
you’ll hear my footsteps stop in the bright world
above. Probably the love between men and boys
is madness too. Forgive me, I’m going to turn
my mother’s mistake to the archers. I am no hero.

The wine-dark sea can flood and swallow up
every boy from Crete to the Dardanelles.
The rosy-fingered dawn can park itself
in Apollo’s garage. Tell Hades I’m not Theseus;
I won’t break his chains. If I can find you
in his dayless, nightless kingdom, I swear to stay
dead, to love death and let it keep me.

10 thoughts on “Ilium

  1. Cavafy would have loved it; Housman not so much.

    Nice job – particularly the “tricking up and down the Aegean” trope. A foreshadowing of that mad bad playboy Alcibiades.

      1. you gotta be careful with comments like that. if you have any academic enemies, it gives them the opening they need to sneer:

        “oh yes, forthcoming … or perhaps fifth-coming or sixth-coming …”

    1. in my tiny opinion, that’s pretty obvious, and so very loveable about you, Jacob, that you discern the cluelessne$$ of so many profe$$ional, lifer academic$.

    1. and who could forget, … after they heard it:

      the other night , …when I lay sleeping, … I dreamed I held you …. held you …. in my arms ….

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