Let me lie. There's no comfort in your comforting.
I was a princess born. My husband was a king.
I saw him hacked to death at his own altar.
The sons I bore were heroes to a man,
not cast in the common mold.
I laid my cut hair on their graves, their markers my tresses.
Now comes the last, the crowning agony:
that I, in my old age, shall go to Hallas as a slave
to help my mistress in her weaving, to sweep the floor
and carry keys that admit no freedom,
and if that scar-legged fox should wish it in his madness,
house my dust for a time in Odysseus's bed.
This messenger softens truth as my daughter distorts it.
Polyxena has no living husband- she keeps house for a grave.
She has gone beyond comforts.
Mad Cassandra, the last of my lovely ones,
dances to Hymen with hands full of lit torches,
she tears the wreath of laurels from her head.
She will not last long with Agamemnon.
The last of my children. My sunk, royal paps
will never feed others.
I am old, shorn, thoroughly humiliated-
draped in jokes and old rags. And yet.
Even here, in a basement, lodged with the dead
and the seepage from corpses, I am myself. A queen still.
Bear it. If Helen should come to me, glowing as always,
unlikely suing for mercy, I would grant it.
She never chose what she was, no more than I did.
This is a world where every princess is voiceless,
or mad like my daughter, no matter what she has said.
Like the wife of the master I go to, my life was spent weaving,
trapped in spindle, frame, bobbin,
caught in the threads.
Thirteen year old thighs, starved twigs, clamped
against the steaming flanks of the skeletal doe-eyed Guernsey,
pressing rib-bars against the slight muscle swell of hungry calves.
The hidden, ruptured though unblossomed cleft
tickled at the bloody prow by the hair ridge that sprouts along the spinal
column so that this girl seems some prepubescent acolyte of Mithras,
though she is evading slaughter. She does not beckon to the knife,
though the sickle moon intimates the fact that the blade-edge is coming.
It is cold, here, in October. She presses her arms around the place
the breasts will come, thinking saving my sister is saving myself.
Death cannot be worse than raping. The fields are reaped,
soil ruptured, right down to the corn stalks.
Blue lights flash on the distant horizon,
sunrise is coming, arresting fugitives in flight.
My first collection, A Radiance is available for purchase here: http://www.culturedllama.co.uk/books/a-radiance. View my blog: http://sinetimorepress.wordpress.com/. Watch a recording of a poem from A Radiance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doiZZ2D3nXs&feature=share http://www.amazon.com/