Some men are born to violence. I was not.
Am I more to blame for carnage embraced
with open arms? The boar bears tusks, the lion
teeth, while I claim abundance as my lot.
But I took two stray beasts, outcasts for sons.
I made their problems mine. And now disgraced
I return while six noble corpses rot.
Six men born to violence died—brutally
left for the jackals and crows to anoint
with slavering oils. Mourn them not, Argos.
We must see them buried first. And then we
may weep for these men, and for their widows
and children. For the fates chose to appoint
their…seven sons with violent legacy.
Bold was the man whose wife embraced his charred
corpse else she play the hen for other men
of lesser place. Her consuming regard
within demanded self-immolation.
And as his son’s inheritance, he left
harsh surrogates to rear a child of tears
soothed by vengeance; searing resolve bereft
of fear made animate by Zeus’ spear.
His son will raze those walls straddled by he
whose callous words defied the gods that tried
but failed to hold the short lived victory
of pride, heaven struck speechless ere he died.
Kapaneus’ charge was no loss, I think
for how many men ever made God blink?
By Amphion’s tomb there lies the body
of a lion with the face of a maiden.
Blood encrusts a mane of curling ebon
and blithely mingles with dust on downy
cheeks awaiting a beard impatiently.
He wears the shock of death’s recognition
mirrored in his shields burnished depiction
of a similar winged monstrosity.
Parthenopaeus, Oh Argive women
you shall no more taste of Arcadian fruit.
Parthenopaeus, Oh Argive women
your fair flower withers plucked from life’s roots.
Mourn the beautiful their double edged gift
that entices death to harvest them swift.
Behold the blood and ash of prophecy
lies grim. Not in the realm of fantasy
but on our hands and in dire tears that brim
with visions that plagued him. He knew, yet he
never wavered at Fate’s demands. Towards them
he charged aware he would play the victim.
He wore lines of doubt around eyes faith flung
open. He bore honor like the curse hung
round his wife’s neck. He tore truth from fortune’s
tight lipped intimations, and swore with tongue
bathed in the Styx, to heed the beck of men
who heard his thoughts, but refused to listen.
But the earth listened. The Earth marked him well
and saved her prophet a foul trip to hell.
The flaming stars of heaven may be shocked
by savage men who sneer through their war-pocked
shells. But the moon sees all seasons of man
from Heaven to Hell and mortal lives walked
as well. She might grant a just outcome, might
not send to Asphodel a soul that’s flight
seemed to some, destined for Elysium.
But the Gray Goddess has no appetite
for what becomes of men who hold swords numb
so that fear and hope turn hollow war drums
pounding angrily. She hates what she sees.
She sews death and reaps monstrosity from
noble minds so hungry for vengeful glee
that they then forsake immortality.
The blood and bone of man mingles with beast
and foul centaurs of Ares’ creation,
the splintered marrow of a vulture’s feast
litter the land where dragon fought dragon.
Can the all-seeing sun charge with hubris
a man of the hunt who forsook the muse
for toil in forests of Artemis?
He bleeds wine on an altar of refuse.
Here Hippomedon fell. His spear well struck
burrowed deeply in the mouth of his prey
whose razored teeth on sweet victory suck
amidst the stench of abscess and decay.
But in the dragon’s maw vengeance was sewn
and soon men shall hear a toothless Thebes moan.
Justice is blind. But a blind man’s skin still
burns in the sun. An intrepid man’s skill,
woven taut, can still be undone by fate.
How Amphion and Zephus ruled equal
while you and your brother perpetuate
strife bent dispositions beyond the great
divide must befall the Gods to construe.
Your wind swept sepulcher incinerates
flesh—not your true nature still raging too
hot to be consumed in the pyre. You slew
each other but found no respite in fire.
It grew. This hatred hardened and it grew
in the kiln of desire. And kin, now dire
foes, still fight even as the flames expire.