Achilles, it seems,
the greatest of us all—
especially when compared with Paris.
Even Hector the valiant brother who fought
against both man and God (and having thought
he had already done so once
and vanquished the legend— what joy
that radiant evening when he retuned home),
Hector whose mind accepted that Achilles still lived
whose heart confronted the truth
that he must lose—the knowledge
blossoming with every thrust and parry...
because what must it have felt like
to have your sword hit the flesh
and rebound...(did it match the beat
of his own thudding heart?)
the absence of blood...the lack of a wound…
(Achilles, the sacred virgin never to be pierced)
of his foe’s plunge into the sacred river unbound?
Imagine then Hector in that final battle
swinging, knowing he was the greater swordsman,
believing his skill was surpassingly better as he fought
the Grecian Hero (after all
what did Achilles need of skill) and that
because of a mother’s love,
it would not be enough…
all the practise—the hot hours
sweating under the sun, the relentless hours
away from his beloved—meaningless
opposed to the Styx-dipped Achilles anointed by his mother, Thetis,
and then anointed again by history.
What thoughts flicked through Hector’s mind as his arm
grew ever more tired...
the steel once friend shifting into foe
and the lips of his treasured Andromache moving ever more further away.
Is that the kiss of death then?
soft collide of lips
between the about-to-die and their beloved?
And as the killing stroke drew closer,
so too did his final humiliation.
Urged on by Achilles’ grief,
a grief born out of love, a grief that fed the rage
and was expressed in Hector’s ignoble chariot ride
the dust rising as his carcass was dragged
like any slaughtered animal
or easily purchased bride.
And Hector’s father, Priam,
the father of Paris too but at this point not moot,
standing there on the walls…watching
the greater of the two ridiculed in death,
What thoughts did he have?
Did he think back to Hector’s birth?
Or further back to the time he saw Hecuba in the fields
the soft swell of her belly confirming
the seed planted? Or further back still,
back the to first time when she,
Unaware of his eyes
Walked, innocent then, through the city?
But in losing to Achilles
did Hector — rather than flee…
even as his mind reeled (not a thought to yield
but always to fight on)—
conquer fear (though not death
even Achilles despite the deeming,
failed at that — we all fail at that)?
So Achilles then
the greatest of us all
when the moon breaks through...
the sky cloudy... the night still after the rain…
and the moon is full,
its soft light capturing the mind
and she stands there on the bridge
a slight wind
her hair so that her right hand removes three strands
from her lips
It is Paris we think of
for she becomes our Helen
and eternal Achilles slips (As all heroes must)
into the shadows of things before
standing on that bridge
removing those three strands and,
turning to return your look.