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6. "Men Are Such Fools"

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Calchas:

The curse of the seer
     is to believe other men to be fools.

     They must know things,
even without Apollo's gifts of vision,
          yet still,
     they ask:

"Calchas,
     what cause has this plague?"

"Calchas,
     who could have so upset the Lord of Disease?"

"Calchas,
     who among us needs to repent to Apollo?"

I wander the camp.
     I pretend to watch the birds.
          Those who follow me at a distance
          must surely see
               priestly footprints in the mud,
               the anger-shreds of ribbon,
               the rock where an enslaved daughter
                    sits and bemoans her fate.
          Surely they see all this,
     and still,
          they ask,

"Why?"

Or perhaps they do see
     all too clearly.
They mean for Calchas to be the one
     to say what all men know,
     to confront the one responsible,
     to bear his wrath,
          and certainly,
               to die
     for asking Agamemnon to accept the dishonor of blame.

"Calchas,
     what do you see?"

Now this is a question I can answer,
     if I look into the sea-storm eyes
          of the man who asks,
     and if I couch my words with the skill of a seer:

"I see a man
     who stands up for truth-tellers,
          and protects them
     from those
          who may dislike bad news.
I see a man
     anguished
          by the unvalorous deaths
          of pale husks of men
          on their death-pallets.
I see a man
     who is willing to accept the consequences
          of standing up to power.
I see Achilles,
          who can stop this plague,
               but only
     at a great cost to himself
          and those he loves."

This is what I tell him
          each day
     for nine days of sickness and death.

     And on the tenth day,
Achilles makes a choice.

THE EPIC CYCLE:

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