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The Death of Patroclus

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The Death of Patroclus

a fragment of a projected epic: Troy

Now it is noon.
At apogee of light, defined by sun,
Patroclus finds his own apotheosis.
He is man no longer - bronze.
And Hector likewise - a rumor in the dust.
Patroclus hunts.
A warrior of the sun, he hunts his shadow.
The moons of his fingers, the skin of his thumbs.
His kidneys sucked by the heat.
Joint by joint, concatenating bones
Make cause compel effect, despite the gripe
Which cramps the calf and crabs within the thigh.
Sinovial fluid flows: his gait
A lubricated stagger as he steps
From swing of hip, from swing -
Earth jolts beneath his foot, and sways, and then sustains.
The plain of Troy has melted: in the blood's black heat
Floats on a buckle-twist of air, a warp
Of fluctuating heat made living vision.
Now the sun sweats dry. Patroclus burns.
Clatter by clatter, the shouts
Scream frog amidst the chariots.
Maimed by heat, Patroclus shuns and sheds,
And bronze goes reeling.
The helm of Achilles
Falls to the hoofbeat thunder,
Rolls to the fouling of blood and dust.
Gaffed by the sun, Patroclus
Kicks on a hook, and shudders.
His eyes are blind: his mind
A great fish breaching.
Struck by a god, Patroclus reels,
And seeks his footing in a chorus-cry of gulls:
The wheeling voices of the toppling sea,
Their discord shrill as arrows in their fall.
Doomed down to his heartbeat shadow,
Patroclus falls,
Falls in the roar of the toppling world
As Hector steps and drives,
As Hector drives his spear to kill,
To take beneath the ribs and drive,
To drive the great bronze blade
To the heartbeat's stagger, home.
And the reeling gulls
Pull back, pull back and wing.
Pull back to the wind's mock, to the heights
Where Ida answers Samothrace
And shuns the battle.
White wings whipped to the sea's scud.
The North Aegean foaming on the shore.

Publication details: This poem "The Death of Patroclus" was first published when posted on the Internet by Hugh Cook on 2003 March 19 Wednesday. Copyright © 2003 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.


In Pylos, old man Nestor grins: too often.
Nine battlefields creak in his kneecaps.
The sea's gaunt tribulations
Shake in his blood.


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