Reginald Shepherd




 

A Little Iliad


The gods grow bored with men
who have no stories

*

Dipped him in the viscous stygian flow
held by one mortal heel: slipping out
of his mother’s saltwater hands,

he kills and is killed by turns,
greatest of the fabled dead
from the day of his oracled birth

*

His sword singing through bone
and sinew makes a happy monster music
Hades approves; Hades admires him

and covets his shadow to catch and keep
where shadows are cast only
by shadows, by haze and by fog

*

Achilles the killer of heroes and cowards
kills Hector the hero of Troy
who thought that he had killed Achilles:

drags his pierced body around Patroclus’ tomb,
then hands his ransomed body back in tears:
“I’ll see you soon, my brother”

*

On the eighteenth day his body burns
upon a pyre; his soul pernes in a gyre

moth-flutter in the funerary wind
corpse-light singes midnight

Alive he rejects the sacrifice, but
dead boys demand it

*

Better to be a slave of a slave
and full of breath
than king of all ghosts underground:

to look into the light of living things
is sight’s delight; two copper pennies
pay his eyes closed

*

If the tortoise is given the lead
Achilles can never finish the race


 





© 2008 Electronic Poetry Review