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"Arrival"

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Penthesileia

Penthesileia
and her twelve companions
     ride through the Dardanian Gate,
     ride through the courtyards of Ilion,
         feeling the eyes of gawking city-folk,
         hearing whispers...

about their adornments of fur:
        the leopard pelt
             around Penthesileia's shoulders
                  lending her its strength,
        the deerskin leggings
                  lending speed,
        the streaming foxtails
                  lending cunning.

about the illustrations
     telling each woman's story,
          her birth-tribe
               and
          her name days,
               her first hunt
                    and
               her first battle,
          her honors
               and 
          her tributes,
             drawn into the skin
             with blue-black ink.

about the blood-metal bracelets
     that represent the links
         of each woman's heart-chain.

about their flowing manes of hair
     from the sunrise red of the sisters,
          Alcibie and Derimacheia,
     to the coal black of Thermodosa
     to flame-haired Polemousa's golden locks,
     to Hippothoe's white-streaked brown,
     to far-throwing Evandre's
          bald-shaven head,
          in the manner
          of her birth-tribe.

remarking on bodies
     from Clonie,
          so deceptively child-like,
          to the impressive battle scars
     of Derinoe,
          up to towering statures
     of Bremousa
     and Penthesileia.

"Great and terrible beauties,
     one and all,"
         a Trojan man remarks.
"An assembly sent by the gods,
     if they be not goddesses themselves."

Penthesileia wrinkles her nose
     at such loathsome and ugly talk,
         and steers Thunder
     to the other side of the yard.

Antibrote collects the Amazon mounts.
Trojan grooms offer stables, brushes, and oats.
Thunder rears,
     front hooves pawing the air.

"Whoa, girl. You are safe now,"
     Penthesileia soothes.
She dismounts,
     reins in hand,
     and strokes the mare's sweat-soaked flank. 
"We are all safe now,"
     she adds,
     with a more doubtful tone
     and a look all around.

Unhorsed,
     the twelve companions lean on their spears,
         like tired sentries
         after a double-shift of guard duty.
But Penthesileia,
     alert,
     awake,
     aware,
     scans their surroundings.

"Have the monsters followed you,
     even into these god-built city walls?"
Bremousa asks.

Penthesileia shakes her head.
     "They stand outside the gate.
     Can you truly not hear them? 
         They howl for my blood."

"I believe that you can hear them,"
     Bremousa avows.
"Daughter of Ares,
     we all believe
          in you."

THE EPIC CYCLE:

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