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"The War God"

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Ares

From Olympus to Earth,
     in a golden chariot,
     a deity of war descends
          and takes the guise of a bearded Myrmidon
          and slips into the Achaean camp
          and finds a group of warriors
               chewing mutton gristle
               at a fire behind the earthworks
               that surround the beached ships.

The deity snatches
     a piece with extra fat
     and a rib bone to crunch
     and snarls,
"What be, lads?"

The soldiers trade puzzled looks.
     "I recognize this man,"
          one whispers.
     "He fought in my unit.
     He took an arrow through the eye.
          I swear, I thought he died."

But bow-legged Thersites, 
     seeing no strangeness,
     heeding no danger,
          steps forward.
"Nothing good, I'll venture.
     Achilles still camps by the hero's tomb.
     Our embassy,
          meant to restore his strong arm to our forces
          has weakened us instead.
     Great Ajax remained behind.
          He called for a drum
          to accompany the lyre
               and dice for gaming!
     Our two best warriors
          now take a grand vacation
          while the rest of us prepare for battle."

The war god grinds the fat between his teeth.
     "What is this talk of battle?
          The Trojans
               still mourn for lost Hector
               and hold themselves,
                    craven,
               behind their walls."

     "Nay, comrade.
I overheard the Cretans,
     Idomeneus and Meriones,
          in counsel with their scouts.
Riders were spotted at the Dardanian Gate,
     possibly Scythians,
          who have allied their strength with Ilion.
The Atreides expect a fight on the morrow."

"News indeed,"
     the war god ponders.
"I must away,"
     he says,
     and walks as if on the air itself.

"Such a friendly fellow,"
     Thersites remarks.

At Ilion's gate,
     the war god arrives
     in the guise of a Paphlagonian,
past the sentries,
past the watchmen,
past the guards,
     to the palace of Priam
     to the hall of bedchambers
     past the doorway of Paris and Helen
     where Aphrodite sits
          and waits,
          and blinks,
          and points,
          and says,
     "You!"

"No need to bestir yourself,
     ye woman of seafoam,"
          the battle god chides.
"Continue your games of love
     while I
tend to important matters of war."

Aphrodite,
     goddess of beauty and affection,
reaches into her bag
     for a golden apple
     inscribed,
          "For the fairest,"
     and tosses
and catches
     and gloats.

The war god moves on
     to another door
     into another bedchamber
where Penthesileia
     thrashes
in troubled slumbers.

At the headboard
     of the Amazon
the war god weaves a dream
     of blood
          of death
     of carnage
and in her sleep,
     Penthesileia
          smiles.

THE EPIC CYCLE:

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