War Music [Down on your knees, Achilles]

Christopher Logue - 1926-2011
An account of books 16-19 of the Iliad by Homer. 

  Down on your knees, Achilles.  Farther down.
Now forward on your hands and put your face into the dirt,
And scrub it to and fro.
  Grief has you by the hair with one
And with the forceps of its other hand
Uses your mouth to trowel the dogshit up;
Watches you lift your arms to Heaven; and then
Pounces and screws your nose into the filth.
  Gods have plucked drawstrings from your head,
And from the templates of your upper lip
Modelled their bows.
  Not now.  Not since
Your grieving reaches out and pistol-whips
That envied face, until
Frightened to bear your black, backbreaking agony alone,
You sank, throat back, thrown back, your voice
Thrown out across the sea to reach your Source.

More by Christopher Logue

All Day Permanent Red [To welcome Hector to his death]

To welcome Hector to his death
God sent a rolling thunderclap across the sky
The city and the sea
      And momentarily—
The breezes playing with the sunlit dust—
On either slope a silence fell.

   Think of a raked sky-wide Venetian blind.
   Add the receding traction of its slats
   Of its slats of its slats as a hand draws it up.
   Hear the Greek army getting to its feet.
   
   Then of a stadium when many boards are raised
   And many faces change to one vast face.
   So, where there were so many masks,
   Now one Greek mask glittered from strip to ridge.
   Already swift
Boy Lutie took Prince Hector's nod
And fired his whip that right and left
Signalled to Ilium's wheels to fire their own,
And to the Wall-wide nodding plumes of Trojan infantry—

   Flutes!
   Flutes!
Screeching above the grave percussion of their feet
Shouting how they will force the savage Greeks
Back up the slope over the ridge, downplain
And slaughter them beside their ships—

   Add the reverberation of their hooves: and
   "Reach for your oars. . ."
T'lesspiax, his yard at 60°, sending it
Across the radiant air as Ilium swept
   Onto the strip
   Into the Greeks
   Over the venue where
Two hours ago all present prayed for peace.
   And carried Greece
Back up the slope that leads
   Via its ridge
   Onto the windy plain.