Diomedes

Hapax Legomenon

Diomedes

by Aaron Hollander, '07

What Aphrodite has learned is that mortals love best.
Briefly, yes, but somewhere in the steam of our souls'
departure she finds tight-woven rubies to thrill
Spirits. And Paris was awash in her silken deluge.

They say too that Achilles is touched,
somehow. That when he sees the faces
of the Gods, what is human in him gutters
like a candle - but Achilles is not one for metaphors.

And Ajax, well, his body is his temple.
The way he stood on the prow of that ship,
splay-legged, keeping it from flame with his spear -
we all have dreamt that image more than once.

All the Gods have children in this war, starlight
sparking behind their eyes. I watched when
blessed Sarpedon died, his fingers clutching the sand -
like any man - as his soul crossed the threshold of his teeth.

It is hard to find a message in this, how
skulls are cloven, lungs impaled, the heart of
every man measured in feathers on an invisible
scale. The Gods, we have learned, burn for this.

Soldiers complain these days of divine capriciousness,
the blindness of lightning striking, the flooding
of God-fearing cities' crops. So what do you
tell me when Achilles screams to the heavens -

those blind heavens - and something shifts,
a shimmer like above distilled wine in the
sand-choked air, and light gushes around him
in torrents? They say that the Sun God

hates the Greeks, but here the Sun has come
to earth, bares its breast above the man
on the dry crest, so the battle stops dead. No,
these spirits are not unfeeling to blood and love.

All the Gods have children in this war.
And we go soon where they cannot follow,
the ribs of the wide earth folding around us,
our starlight wisping upward like prayers,

our bones made ash by those who love us.
How magnificent, how terrifying! This is what
it is about when the War God strides among us, his
voice like a thousand bulls, swinging a sword crafted

in the violent heart of mountains: to try
in vain to feel the sting of sand, the
pulse singing in our ears, in this moment
so briefly, terribly present. And when

Storm-eyed Athene steps into my chariot,
the wind screaming around us, I feel a
birdlike, latticed hand close around my wrist
and she tells me, At last, this time has come at last.