|Jared Carter lives in Indiana. His fifth book, A Dance in the Street, is available from Wind Publications in Kentucky. His sixth, Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press. Additional poems and stories may be found on his web site at www.jaredcarter.com.|
It’s not a labyrinth, I said,
more like a maze
That opens circles in your head
until the daze
Of noon has vanished, and you hear
the hollow tread
Of some hoofed creature drawing near.
Give me the thread,
He said impatiently, I have
kingdoms to win,
And more than schoolgirls to save.
I pushed him in.
Not you – that began whispering
when I drew near,
Bright blade in hand, intercepting
and showing clear
Your face, gleaming on the surface
of my shield, right
Become left – but a sibilance
drawn bowstring tight
Issuing from your writhing hair.
Then backward I
Whirled and struck, darkening the air
with all those sighs.
Achilles, though in stringent death
you seized on me
To grace your tomb, with my last breath
Revealed, to all the Argive host
What you would never touch. At most,
in this place where
We two are shades, your reaching out
to take my wrist
Finds only echoes of their shout
within the mist.
I to Apollo’s temple came
to pledge my troth,
Polyxena. And yet the aim
of Paris, wroth
At Hector’s degradation, found
my naked heel.
Still I would have you, underground –
your death would seal
My funeral rites. Once I was man
and you were maid,
But when I seek you now my hand
finds only shade.
Know then, Paris, that the arrow,
like the serpent
Stepped upon, strikes to the marrow.
Though you repent
Those choices made, that quarrel stirred,
this dart of mine
Feels no remorse. Achilles heard
your arrow’s whine
And knew it was a mortal sting.
Stung, too, and nothing he might sing
would set her free.