Victory yields a new set of enemies:
the homeless, the defenceless, the small —
including this child
whose birthright is the bravery of his dead father,
whose inheritance is a ruined city.
Odysseus decrees that Astyanax, ‘Prince of the City’,
be flung from the walls of Troy.
The messenger who takes the child warns Andromache:
‘If you protest, he will be left unburied’.
But Andromache is silent,
contemplating the changes to come:
mother to childless woman,
widow to concubine,
citizen to alien,
aristocrat to slave.
Astyanax, who took fright at the horsehair plume
of his father’s helmet, is placed in Hector’s shield,
his broken body recomposed; seed in a pod.
How can the voices of women be so terrible?
Hecabe feels the walls of this city
crumbling inside her, hears the wind
keening through them. First her children,
then her children’s children, dead.
She is whirling back towards uncreation
where only one sound fills the darkness.
They hate her screaming.
Cassandra kept that death inside her,
did not even try to foretell it.
Her desolation is that she can only
know the future, never imagine it —
how else it might have been; what could
come after it; some new beginning…
A huge hand is clinging
to the hand of the victor.
He tries to wipe it off —
on walls, stones, trees;
(even his sword cannot unwedge it) —
not realising it is there
to congratulate him.
Its grey, bloodstained fingers
tighten round his —
loyalty, undying service.
© Diane Fahey