5. "Once"

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Centering Swift-Footed Achilles,
Warrior Prince of Phthia:

"No man touches her!"

"Not even the Atreides would dare,"
     Podarces assures me,
          with a glare at Thersites
               who grins a pale smile,
               and mutters,
          "Not after the last time."

Once,
  ill-fated Iphigenia,
     was led to believe
     I was her intended,
          before ruthless Agamemnon 
          led that poor girl to slaughter
          to appease the goddess.

Once,
  I turned down
     an offer from Agamemnon,
          overlord of the host,
     to wed his choice of Argive princesses
     upon a successful return to the lands of Hellas.

Once,
  I pledged myself to Deidamia,
          who still waits for me
          and remains loyal to me
          on the island of Skyros
          with our son.

     Once this one,
  once that one,
but always, always, always,
     there was Patroclus,
          and now Patroclus is no more.

     And more than once,
often, often, often,
  Patroclus had urged me
     to take Briseïs as my wife,
     as he would take Iphis,
          and we four would be happy together
          after the war,
     back when life beyond the war
  was something we could contemplate.
But now?

I shake my head.

I wish I still had your counsel, Patroclus.
          About Briseïs.
          About Iphis.
     What fate would you wish for them?

Iphis cared for you,
          and still does,
          and always will,
     I made sure of that.

Briseïs cares for you also, 
        and would be here
             if I let her come,
          and would provide comfort
     which I can't accept.
How could I be here for you, dear Patroclus,
     if Briseïs were here for me?

"No man touches her,"
     I repeat,
        and remain,
   rooted in place,
plucking the lyre.

EPIC CYCLE ROADMAP:

* The Kypria
* The Iliad
* The Posthomerica
* Tales of Nostos
* The Odyssey
* The Telegony
* The Aeneid
  Rage is the first book of the Iliad. Amazons is the first book of the Posthomerica.

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