for E.E. Club Saw Reid

 

I. Priam, Returning to the Ramparts

He’d never say it to my face and yet
I sense that Hector senses I’m washed up:
too old, too soft. Not that he is the pup
that sees for the first time his dad beset
with something he can’t handle, can’t repair—
No, that was long ago; I feel ancient.
I’m sick of war and I am impatient
for things to go back to the way they were…

Think of Agamemnon, Odysseus,
dexterous Diomedes, jacked Ajax,
AWOL Achilles, and Menelaus—
By Zeus! Who could watch? Paris is too lax,
Trojans all. The Achaean army’d be a dream
if only they had Hector on their team!

 

II. Paris, Back in his Bedroom

Because he never let me fight my fights—
too protective, he always interfered,
having an older brother’s heart, he jeered
at me in private, but on public nights
painting Troy red, when we were fun and young,
and when some badger mocked or called me out,
I never even had the chance to shout
before big Hector, Priam’s favorite son,

had pushed me back, and got into the face
of that poor fool—I’ve got a lover’s soul,
not a fighter’s. They call me a disgrace!
loathe me like Black Death, whereas he is “cool.”
I know it all too well that I’ve been spoiled.
Helen smells this coward who’s recoiled!

 

III. Hector, in Front of his Men, Kicking at the Dirt

It’s ridiculous all the times he’s quailed:
say when we’d got to wrestling round the shocks
of grain (for fun) or on the salty docks
of some sea-town where we, as kids, had sailed;
and where the local thugs, reeking of fish,
would test our guts when chap’rons let us be.
He’s never had the right integrity;
and off he’d flit before they served a dish

of knuckled fist smushed in his pretty face.
He is a chicken whereas Menelaus
is like some redbone barking at the base
of a tall tree. My brother is a wuss,
who I thought changed, but again let me down.
Especially cause Troy is our hometown!

 

Reid McGrath is a poet living in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Featured Image: “Hector Admonishes Paris for His Softness and Exhorts Him to Go to War,” 1786, by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein.

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