Trojan War-time poem: "On the Walls"

Rhina Espaillat

Rhina Espaillat

It's the gossip-y parts of the Helen of Troy myth that often get lost. Though, in re-re-reading The Iliad there are plenty of moments of character sighing ruefully "I wish I weren't so into this" and "Player's gotta play" moments. Other than the Catalog of Ships (made easier when you imagine a cheering room when an ancestor is mentioned), The Iliad remains a good read. The poem below is prosaic but still struck my fancy. My fancy fancy. Can fancies be fancy? "Fancy" kind of loses meaning by the third time you say it in a row. Give it a try.

On the Walls
By Rhina Espaillat

From the first look I knew he was no good.
That perfumed hair, those teeth, those smiling lips
all said, "Come home with me." I knew I would.

Love? Who can say? Daylight withdrew in strips
along those vaulted archways waiting where
the slaves would hear us whisper on the stair.
Not smart, not interesting — no, not the best
as anything, all talk and fingertips.
The best I left behind; they're in those ships
nosing your harbor. You can guess the rest.
The heart does what it does, and done is done.

Regret? What for? The future finds its Troys
in every Sparta, and your fate was spun
not by old crones, but pretty girls and boys.