Greeks, Bearing Gifts

The coils of wood cascade as worn blades glide
from cedar lengths, rough-hewn deformed and coarse,
while nearby, ships await a final tide
and summer’s winds chase sand among the gorse.
As carpenters, alone among the force
of soldiers, stay and toil their keen minds on
one task, a gift their kings leave in remorse,
Fate turns her wheels. Time’s certain mill grinds on.

On many days, before these walls, outside
this fabled place, the warriors grew hoarse
with eulogies for friends and all who died
in combat, as blood’s river ran its course.
But, suddenly their Lords without discourse
craved sweat; they bid each drop adhere, bind on
fresh planks like nails of steel, to reinforce…
Fate turns her wheels, Time’s certain mill grinds on.

Their troops retreat while artisans with pride
create, despite their limited resource,
a mighty tribute, hollowed out inside
and pregnant at the gates, without remorse.
At dusk, all ships set sail back to their source
of power, as the starry-dark blinds; on
they sail but, all the while they feign a course –
Fate turns her wheels; Time’s certain mill grinds on.

Prince, come! Command festivities! Of course
we Trojans, as night’s revelry winds on,
will open up our gates, drag in their Horse –
Fate turns her wheels! Time’s certain mill grinds on.


Beggars Belief

The fight would blaze on the field for days, by sword and by shield and by lance,
but he fell with force and he lost his horse; ’tis a heartless mistress, Chance.
By hook and by crook, though on foot, he fought, yet knew the game was undone
so he made apace for a woodland place, retreating fit to run.

The darkness fell and the sounds of hell dissolved into night and its care,
when a storm arose and his marrow froze in a blast of icy air.
The rain and the snow were a bitter blow and made a mire of the track
as he sought an inn, through both thick and thin; a refuge from attack.

On hands and knees by some haggard trees, he bled ’til his armour was red,
yet despite his plight he noticed a light – and his hopes were stirred and fed.
Unsure at the door of an inn at last, a Count, no mount and no throne,
from a battle lost, at a dreadful cost; a man of war alone.

Some swore in awe when with frozen jaw he stuttered and muttered unclear,
as he slurred, afeared, through his tousled beard, for any prepared to hear.
Then asked he anon for a hide to ride; he’d need a steed – not for long,
to return to fight on this very night, to set to right a wrong.

The Host who heard every word concurred, but slowly and lowly said she,
“We’ve no horse of course; it went with the force of the wind and storm, you see?”
The soldier went white, as one might, yet jumped when, “Wait!” the keeper she cried,
“I’ve a beast at least you may ride, although not tested yet, or tried.”

“I’ll take it!” howled he, a man set free, “Whatever the brute be, I’m sure!”
The inn-keeper stood, said “I thought you would”, and his future seemed secure.
But hail and the rain on the window pane were louder now, with no cause –
as though Fate was trying to make him late; all blocked and locked indoors.

They trudged around to a backyard ground, a pound where this beast could be found,
but I swear in there was a motley cur; just a mournful, scornful hound.
In spite of the blight of the stormy night, despite the thought he’d be caught,
in the rain, in pain and in heaven’s name, he’d braved  yet slaved for naught!

The gods indeed had decreed his need a jest, which would best be ignored,
as he stood amazed while the keeper praised the sad-looking mutt, which snored.
He wailed, “I have failed!” and away he trailed, absorbed by midnight’s abyss,
with this parting slight, “You’ll not send a knight, out…on a dog like this!”


Phill Doran is a poet living in South Africa.

Featured Image: Roman wall-painting from Pompeii: the Trojan Horse is dragged into Troy. Naples, Museo Nazionale.

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