In her dream,
wears unfamiliar bronze armor
in the Trojan fashion
and leads a host to war.
"Ride, Penthesileia, ride!"
booms a voice in the sky.
races the wind
on a thundercloud steed with lightning eyes.
Her sire's presence
brings a feeling
that weapons can no longer touch her.
Penthesileia races forward
surrounded by her Amazon companions
surrounded by their Trojan allies
to meet the charging Achaean horde.
Bodies, chariots, and horses
tumbling onto the black soil.
And then comes swift-footed Clonie,
who trades slashing blows with Oilean Ajax.
slips past the left greave
to bloody his leg,
evades her shield
to bloody her arm,
and they dance,
spraying each other with red droplets.
And then comes flame-haired Polemousa,
unhorsed by a spear to her mount's flank!
comes up on her feet,
and faces her attacker
and a bronze knife to the man's chest.
And so Idomeneus drops into the dust,
and a hundred cities of Crete
will require a new king.
And then comes battle-scarred Derinoe,
plowing through the Achaean throng
with an axe in each hand.
A blow glances off the helmet of Diomedes
and he stumbles,
into the path of Trojan Prince Deiphobus,
who ends his life.
And then comes far-throwing Evandre,
who tosses a javelin
through the armored belly of Teucer.
And then comes clever Antandre,
and applies plasters
to the wounds of Clonie
while Oilean Ajax,
drains his Locrian blood into the soil
from a dozen open wounds.
And then comes motherly Hippothoe,
in single combat with war-scarred Nestor
while Nestor's son,
stands back at the father's request
to learn a lesson from the master.
"In fighting an Amazon,"
"the key is to take full advantage of a man's greater endurance
and the longer reach of a man's arms,"
and between sword clashes
"If if she speaks,
as the gossip of women will be the death of a man."
on the sideline,
takes careful notes.
"Foolish old man,"
"My arms are as long as yours,
my advice twice as valid,
and by the panting of your breath,
your endurance for fighting
your endurance for drinking and storytelling."
A mighty slash!
Nestor extends his sword point
past his target,
too far to the side,
and throws out his back,
neatly chops into his neck.
Antilochus shrieks and cries,
Gods, take me instead!"
And so he falls,
in the next moment,
not in place of his father
but at his side.
And then comes dark-eyed Harmothoe,
on silent toes,
and with an unassuming blade,
in an unseen hand,
opens the throat of Menelaus,
eliminates the claim on Helen,
ends the Achaean cause for war,
and melts back into the chaos of battle,
all without ever being seen.
And then comes good-hearted Alcibie,
but not before killing a dozen men
and composing in her head
that would have been forever repeated
if only she'd lived to sing it aloud.
And then comes horse-taming Antibrote,
who brings a spare mount to Polemousa
and joins her in a spree of carnage.
And then comes the hunter Derimacheia,
who dabbles in the battle
long enough to slay Sthenelos and Meriones
before heading back
to help prepare the Trojan victory feast.
And then comes cunning Thermodosa,
with Odysseus in range of her spear
in a moment of distraction,
the tricky son of Laertes
Thermodosa pledges to follow his twisting-turning Ithacan heels,
day after day
for however long her quarry flees,
and Trojans and Achaeans alike
know that Odysseus will have no safe homecoming.
And then comes glorious Bremousa,
targeting Great Ajax
the brightest star
in the constellation
that trails swift-footed Achilles.
Bremousa and Ajax,
Ajax and Bremousa,
like two towering trees in a forest of saplings
they vie against each other
until Bremousa slips a spear
past the tremendous shield,
past the silver breastplate,
the armor that's not quite strong enough,
piercing the skin
and drawing out the guts
more like a tall tree than ever,
Ajax falls with a crash
to the rocky plain.
bursts with pride
at the prowess of her companions.
But in her turn
she locates Achilles,
his shining god-crafted armor
a match for the Amazon's own,
and with smoke curling from her nostrils,
and with flames roaring from her breath,
and with muscles bulging under her skin,
and with power surging through her body,
the war-mare, Thunder,
and her double-headed axe,
against the dreaded foe.
jumps from his chariot,
spear in hand,
seeking a fair fight,
dismounts her horse.
The warriors circle each other,
to the raging battle all around.
He is as large as a house,
He is as solid as a bear,
this bane of Priam,
this killer of Hector,
this son of a sea-nymph.
"Who do you think you are
to come against me?"
that I am Penthesileia,
and that I am your doom."
The axe turns away a spear thrust.
The spear turns away the axe.
covering the sky,
roars his encouragement.
against Achilles's golden shield.
against Penthesileia's bare skin.
The two contestants grapple,
a wrestling match for the ages.
"I must admint, you are very pretty,"
from within her hammerlock.
"You are even prettier,"
"But I have pledged to kill you
to free my sister's spirit,
to dispell the Erinyes,
to move forward with my obligations
to rule over my tribe."
Their eyes lock
twin black pools
breathes his last breath
feels a longing
that's been forever lost.
And then the Achaeans retreat.
And then the earthen bulworks fall.
And then the fast ships burn.
And still Achilles lies,
broken and dead
at Penthesileia's feet.
gather the last of the enemy forces
like sheep before a slaughter.
god of war,
laughs with joy
at the exploits of his daughter.
"This has to be a dream,"
The war god roars,
"Olympians do not send dreams.
We send omens!
And to you,
pride of Scythia,
I send my promise,
as surely as your father now stands by your side,
that you shall know victory over the Achaeans.
And as proof against your lingering doubts,
I will leave you with a gift
at the coming of rosy-fingered dawn."
The war god gestures
to the east,
to the purpling sky over Mount Ida,
where the golden sun of morning
fails to rise.
The war god frowns.
"Dawn is delayed,
but my gift shall remain timely."
"An unrelated matter
occupies the keeper of the Ethiopian Gate,
but you, Penthesileia,
will shine with your own light,
even in the absence of the sun,
and you can count on your father
to keep the promises he makes."
The dream fades
and the Amazon war-mistress
as do the other Amazons,
as do the Trojans,
as do the Greeks,
to a morning without a dawn.