War Music – Patrocleia’ (extract)
His hand came from the east,
And in his wrist lay all eternity;
And every atom of his mystic weight
Was poised between his fist and bent left leg.
Your eyes lurched out. Achilles’ bonnet rang
Far and away beneath the cannon-bones of Trojan horses,
And you were footless … staggering … amazed …
Whirled to the outskirts of the battlefield,
Between its clumps of dying, dying yourself,
Dazed by the brilliance in your eyes,
The noise – like weirs heard far away –
Dabbling your astounded fingers
In the vomit on your chest.
And many wounded Trojans lay and stared at you;
Propped themselves up and stared at you;
Feeling themselves as blest as you felt cursed.
All of them lay and stared;
And one, a hero boy called Thackta, cast.
His javelin went through your calves,
Stitching your knees together, and you fell,
Not noticing the pain, and tried to crawl away.
No hope of that.
Standing above you,
Putting his spear through … ach, and saying:
‘Why tears, Patroclus?
Did you hope to melt Troy down
And make our women fetch the ingots home?
I can imagine it!
You and your marvelous Achilles;
Him with an upright finger, saying:
“Don’t show your face to me again, Patroclus,
Unless it’s red with Hector’s blood.“‘
Shaking the voice out of his body, says:
Remember it took three of you to kill me.
A god, a boy, and, last and least, a prince.
I can hear Death pronounce my name, and yet
Somehow it sounds like Hector.
And as I close my eyes I see Achilles’ face
With Death’s voice coming out of it.’
Saying these things Patroclus died.
And as his soul went through the sand
Hector withdrew his spear and said: