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"At the King's Table"

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Penthesileia and Priam

In Priam's Great Hall,
     where joy had been lacking,
          timpanists and kitharodes
          call the assembly to dance.

The tables hold delicacies,
     meats and mead,
     breads and wine,
          as if in celebration
          of a victory already won.

At Priam's table,
     the war council surrounds the king
with Penthesileia at Priam's right hand
     as if she always had been there
     in the chair where Hector lately sat.

Hospitality is Priam's main course.
     Discussions remain casual and pleasant.
By custom,
     the hard business is held for dessert.

Priam talks of horses,
     a safe topic
          as long as one doesn't mention
          the long-lost horses of Laomedon.

The Trojans,
     do not saddle horses to ride.
They,
     like the Achaeans,
     prefer chariots.
Priam's eyes sparkle,
hand gestures animate his words,
     and Penthesileia feels at ease
          knowing that Trojans love their horses
     as much as the Amazons do.

Until.

Penthesileia talks
     about breaking in a wild stallion
     on the steppes of Scythia,
and Priam
     trembles,
     melts,
     wipes at his eyes.
Aeneas whispers to the confused Amazon,
     "His son, Hector, trained wild horses."

Trained.

Penthesileia nods,
     and turns the conversation aside,
          to styles of reins and bits,
     and all is well again.

Until.

Priam asks more about the use of saddles,
     and how ridden horses handle in sand,
     and how much gear can be stored in saddlebags,
     and whether the horse is a good companion
          during a hunt,
     and Penthesileia
          feels her throat tighten,
          feels her fingers clench themselves,
          hears the screams of the monsters
               from outside the palace,
               from outside the city walls.

"My sister loved to hunt,"
     she mumbles.

Loved.

Priam notes her discomfort
     and there is no more talk of horses
          at least for now.

THE EPIC CYCLE:

Rage!
Generic article | Nov 22, 2020

A classic tale of war, betrayal, death, grief, and recovery.

Amazons!
Generic article | Nov 20, 2020

Continuing from the end of The Iliad, an Amazon comes to Troy.

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17 Aug, 2020 13:04

What a beautiful way to convey memories of loss. I always find your poetry evocative and beautiful.

Author of Fillimet, bright fantasy land of possibilities
Sage gfishbone
Greg R. Fishbone
19 Aug, 2020 21:11

Thanks. I hadn't realized how much the themes of loss and guilt really tie this book together, for Penthesileia and Priam but also for Achilles and Podarces. I'll have to keep it in mind as I write.

Greg R. Fishbone, Author in Residence at Mythoversal.