Tuesday, June 07, 2005

After a Battle*

From the top of the hill one could think they were asleep,
but as we came down upon our fathers, we could see:
first, the moon-glint of goodness on the heaps, then
the love among them, grown crooked in the mouth.

We could almost tell where their souls came out.
Across Boeotia: not a woman, not a child is crying,
not even in sleepy hunger, dreaming their boys
will bring back the goods. The first she-goat fell

and the priestess let her blood flow toward the Spartan
who said Wait and one hundred thousand men
waited because the goat’s blood trickled wrong.
He sent for another and a boy younger than me,

all pitch and prowess, dragged a second up the slope.
We imagine, now, a naked heaven—one with no need
for armor. Strip stiff leather from loose bronze.
Carry with me these hollow pieces. No time for graves,

No time to mourn our brothers among them. Now
we are the men, stripped of whatever youth
they pinned us to. There, in the crush, one last animal
beckons buck and belt. I want you here

so you may see among the glint of gods
a morning full of flock and scrimmage—For now,
let’s hammer the plates flat, and later make the shapes
of who we’ll be when the goat can give herself willingly.

*revised from the April poem "Propitiation"

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