Hecuba’s Advice To Helen

Published April 10, 2013 by rlmcdermott

As he changed; I changed–
our bodies flattening out
like images on a coin
rubbed thin by a God’s thumb;

That old man, who
once was young,
now seen only as himself–
stooped and graying.

My Priam,
father of two sons,
one faithful,
one foolish,
both Princes of Troy;
soldiers and heroes
all a wife has to give
to a husband
and all a mother
has to give to her
husband’s people–
such are the wages of marriage
and the price of war.

Listen Helen,
if you bear children
pray that they are girls,
not that they should
be exempt from battle,
for women also die in war;
but that they be exempt
from love and give themselves
instead to the gods,
a temple life,
where the marriage bed is unknown
and sons are things that other women bear–
stillborn warriors marching toward
embattled cities as if they were immortal
and made of steelier things than flesh.

Husbands and sons these are a woman’s lot
and, so, it is a joy to grow old
to turn away from the seductions
of a life spent with men.

Yes, an aging husband
in these hard days
is a glorious thing.
Value Paris and hope he lives
beyond the onslaught of this day
and angry Menelaus sitting
cross-legged outside of Troy’s gate. Portrait

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