Glen Martin Fitch
Washing Patroklos - Poem by Glen Martin Fitch
This isn't right. This isn't how it was
To be. Oh Cousin! Years ago when we
Shared jug and javelin, hammock, jerkin, harp
And horse together, we had it all planned.
We knew my fate. We played it endlessly.
For I was to be he who died too young
But bravely. You were to be he who sang
The dirge before the pyre. What trick of fate
Is this? Now I mourn you. Here on your brow
I see it still, your badge of bravery,
The scar carved by my wooden sword, like that.
I thought you dead. I wanted so to die.
I didn't know how I could live without
You then. I don't know now. I stand alone.
They hate me. I hate them. But they loved you.
No, no one else on earth could tell me what to do.
With you the finest part of me has died.
I care not what they say. I killed a boar
At six. The Centaurs taught me all I know
Of weapons, courage, skills and manliness.
And I whipped every man who dared to sneer
The name of 'Pyrrah.' Yes, my mother sought
To hide me with the maidens from my fate
I stayed. No, not from fear, but joy. So dressed
What ease I knew to woo and win my wife
And how my mother cried when trumpets blared
To see me strip the veil and grab a sword,
Myself revealed for war, my destiny.
Achilles! First in everything he tries.
In strength and speed no Ajax can compare.
And second only once, in this, the first
To land on shore was fated first to die.
No glory there. The second down was I!
The praise of mouthy Menelaus I
Don't need, not he who needs an army just
To catch his wife. Nor well wrought words from wise
Odysseus. Such talk is women's work.
No, I speak with my hands. And least of all
Our rich and greedy Agamemnon, King.
How can I care what he who stole my prize,
My glory, says of me? Nor care I now
What any God may say. Like cocks they pit
Us for their fight! I cannot care. Your slap
And smile meant more to me than all of Troy.
My friend, I fought, I lived for you, your praise.
Impostor, traitor, cheater, liar, thief!
The only man I loved. What did you mean
To do? I let you take my armor just
To save the ships. But did you think to take
My glory too? They thought you me and fled.
Perhaps before Troy's gate you thought so too.
Good soldier, you were you, but better for
My sword and shield. You did it, doing as
I've done. The glory's yours and my respect.
But had I known, you never would have gone.
Now every soldier, slave, and general
Sheds tears of grief for you. I miss you so.
So happy, humble, wise and caring, kind,
The kindest man I knew. A friend to all
And every ounce a man. I envied and
Mistrusted you. How could you leave me so?
If only you could see me now! At dawn
My mother brought this armor to replace
What Hector took from you. You'd love it. He
Who's lame and scorned by all the Gods, yet strong
And skilled, Hephaetus, crafted this last night.
As he works metal, I work battle. Love
And wealth once won seem useless, rot us, fade.
Perfection, praise, supremacy (pursuits
So endless and elusive) that's the life
I choose to live. Yes, short but valiant. Yet
What honor is there when dishonored? Strength
Not weakness seems absurd now. Gods must mock
Me too. Die young and foolish, I die twice.
And now to die alone. I could have faced
It all, while I had you. In dying you
Were brave. In living, loving, braver still.
I've only crafted glory, you your soul.
Oh, would that I had imitated you!
You've got your glory now and now you're dead.
Much good! You can't enjoy it nor I you.
Well, you died once and bravely. That I know.
I guess I'm glad I'm not immortal. Soon
I'll die. Each act of bravery might be
My best, the last. I don't fear dying, death
(I race in battle only to that end)
But little deaths destroy me endlessly.
For anything save death, save glory, must
Be failure. Mortal death cannot be worse
Than that. When dead, no more will I know pain,
Affront, embarrassment, or jealousy.
No loneliness, remorse, or guilt or grief.
To live is brave. I'd rather die than feel.
Soon I will be with you. Our ashes I'll
Have mixed, then never will we part. By Zeus!
Tomorrow I will kill the man who wears
My armor, he who slew you, Hector, Prince
Of husbandry. He'll die. Then Troy will die
And I will meet my fate. Two hounds, four steeds,
Twelve Trojans, sons of Priam, I will toss
Upon your pyre. Then glory will be yours.
I swear I will have vengeance now! I will
Have glory, but of satisfaction, none.
You're gone! Farewell, fine friend. Now everything
That's near enough to touch me I will kill.
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