You enter, late.
Slide through the door, hope nobody hears as you
Shuffle sideways, scuttle into place like the crab you are,
Skulking in the shadow of the octopi.
It’s already started. The footlights in their eyes,
They can’t even see you.
Grand jeté. Arms, legs, fingers tense, poised,
Ready with the spear. Slide the sharpened point between ribs, tearing,
Elegantly, fingertips pull, pull, push-pull, freeing the blade from bloody sinews, still tightly wound.
Victim falls like garbage from a metal monster.
Patroclus, bare toes pivoting on the floor, pirouettes with the knife, arm outstretched,
SCHGLUG. Into the stomach.
Head flicking dizzyingly, spotting his next partner.
Lift! And throw.
Gracefully, a dancer falls.
Crumples, a swan with a broken neck.
An eye rolls forward, but Patroclus’ foot
Doesn’t even touch it, he won’t be tripped.
Wild smile, savage cry,
The rhythmic stabbing into the crowd
Soldiers drop around him,
Peeling away like petals of a cactus flower,
Bloom for a day, then you’re gone, Patroclus.
At least you’ve made your mark.
A forest of arms, heads, hands, feet, legs,
Rooted in the fallen bodies, lifeless skin still sweating under the hot Trojan sun.
Little boy, little boy, Stab the bloodthirsty bastard,
Princip, out to make his name,
End the war.
Drive it, the spear into his spleen
Almost, almost glory.
Run away before he sees who did it.
He stumbles, “It’s over!” “He’s done!”
But it gives a growl, springing back into the fight,
A one-quill porcupine.
Twitch. He’s down. Now’s your chance.
Hector advances, foxtrot to the right, slide under,
Arm flailing, he falters. Unsure.
Looking over, to Sarpedon,
Can you call him that?
Just a mass of dead skin
Stabbed and torn at, devoured as an army of ants crawls desperately over a single crumb.
Anger floods like acid, eating through his bones.
Go, Hector. Stab. Slice. Hack. Blood on your hands
Slippery, red blood trickling like sweat
From your forehead.
Regaining his balance, he leaps,
Sweeping his arm in one perfect arc, spear meets spear,
Straining with the pitiless bronze to tear at each other,
Mangy dogs in the street,
One on top of the other.
He eases in the blade. Eight inches of hot red
On cold metal.
Hector, holding him down with the tips of his fingers,
Stares into wide, scared-rabbit eyes. Fear.
“Does it hurt?” He mocks. Lip curls.
“How are you feeling? Dead? You’re dead, Patroclus. It always catches up to you, you see.
Hector killed you. Tell everyone that. I bring death.
I am death.”
“No,” he said, “That’s,”
Last word, spat out with all his strength and clotted crimson lumps:
Blind, Deaf, Hector can only roar,
Ripping the armour off his prey,
Hurling it at the driver,
Leaving the naked corpse.
While Thetis comforts infant Achilles,
Dodged by instinct,
Reaching cold hands.
Drag him away! “Drag him away!”
Barely a hesitation. He slaughters Reason,
He can only see spears.
Spears stained for days
With Greek blood, filthy blood,
Leaving a mass of faceless skin.
“I’ve got him!” the voice of Polydamas accompanies
Buckle under weight,
Expand and drag the dead boy.
Head, gone with one blow.
Stuck on a pole,
Right through the esophagus.
Try and talk now, Patroclus.
Before he can move,
Half-giant Ajax sweeps
Two feet in one great hand.
Low bellow. Almost a word: “Ours.”