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"Hold Back the Dawn"

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Thetis and Eos

Standing at the Ethiopian Gate
     between East and West,
     between Day and Night,
     between World the Underworld,
     at the edge of Land and Ocean,
     the rosy-fingered goddess of dawn,
     in flowing saffron robes,
glances up.

Orion looks down on her,
          and fades
     as the sky lightens
          in anticipation
               of Helios.

Inside the gate,
     from behind grand golden doors,
         comes the sound of approaching hooves.
Four stallions pull the blazing Sun-Chariot,
     impatient for the open sky.

Eos performs her morning duties,
     to inspect the track,
     to assign the Horai,
     to pull open the gate for her brother's chariot
          to illuminate the heavens,
          to light and warm the mortal world,
          to mark the passage of time.


Eos turns.
     A Neriad,
     sea goddess,
     moves toward her
     like an approaching wave.
     I have no time
     to properly welcome you to my humble station.
          The horses froth,
          and with equal impatience
          Helios calls for an open gate."

"I also have no time,"
     Thetis states.
"The day must not arrive.
     I require delay.
     Let Helios and his horses rest
          a while longer.
     Leave the gate locked tight
          against the start of a new day
          and stand by until I am ready."

"What is this?
     Do you speak with the authority of Zeus?
          Surely you must,
               for you would not demand such favors
               on your own."

"Not for myself but for my son,"
     says Thetis.
"I have upset him,
     and I must have the time
     to set things right."

"For this you would upset the world?
     the light?
     the day?
Are you so drunk on ocean powers
     that you would deign command the sky?"

"For my son,"
     Thetis starts again,
     but Eos glares with golden eyes.

"I also have a mortal son,"
     she states.
"Memnon the brave,
     Memnon the strong,
          Memnon the great,
     beloved by the gods of the sky,
     no less than your precious Achilles.
Would I stop the dawn from breaking
     to bring a smile to his face?
          I would,
          if my obligations allowed,
               but they do not.
Your son matters to the cosmos
     no more than my own."

"Your son is a great warrior,"
     Thetis concedes.
          She weighs glories in her mind.
"But Memnon is a lesser hero than Achilles."

     Eos flares.
          "Take the time you need, 
               but while you soothe your son,
               I will put a fire into mine.
          I will send Memnon to the Troad plain,
                    by the banks of Scamander,
          he will be the doom of Achilles!"

With the dawn paused,
with strong gates holding back the day,
     two goddesses
     approached mortal sons
          who would soon enough
          confront each other.


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