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"A Dance of Conversation"

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Penthesileia and Priam

Picked-over dinner bones
     crack!
     to release their marrow.
King Priam
     gestures
     for sweet dessert wine.
A tricky negotiation
     awaits
          for the terms,
          for the price,
          for the conditions,
          for the rewards,
          for the obligations,
          for the gifts
     offered to Penthesileia
     for Amazonian aid.
A few more pleasantries, and then
     the hall will empty
     but for Priam and Penthesileia
          alone.

Penthesileia
     praises the meal,
     praises the fine Trojan hospitality,
     praises Priam's large family.

"They are not all present,"
     says the king.

The Amazon nods.
     Of course,
        the dead son again,
  and so the dance
     of conversation
          takes more steps 
       around the late hero's absence.
But no!

"I speak of my daughter Cassandra,"
     says Priam,
"She tends the Temple of Apollo
     with a fervor
          that's driven her quite mad."

"My twin,"
     confides Prince Helenus,
"infamous for her alarmist predictions."

"I should like to meet her,"
     says Penthesileia.

"No,"
     Helenus laughs,
"it's best that you not."

And then, a woman comes
     with red-rimmed eyes
     with wild hair
     with angry
          snarling
          features
     and a young child
          at her hip.

Penthesileia raises an eyebrow
     at Helenus.

"My sister-in-law,
     widow of Hector."

And Penthesileia
     nods.
"I grieve for your loss."

"And who is Penthesileia,"
     Andromache demands, 
          "to feel sorrow for me?"

THE EPIC CYCLE:

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