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From “War Music”

February 27, 2017

Eyeing his plate
Technology you can enjoy
Diomed found, and threw, a stone
As heavy as a cabbage made of lead,
That hit, and split, Aeneas’ hip.
Who went down on one knee
And put his shield hand on the grass
And with his other hand covered his eyes.
Dido might have become a grandmother
And Rome not had its day, except,
As Diomed came on to lop his top
Aneas’ mama, Aphrodite (dressed
In grey silk lounge pyjamas piped with gold
And snakeskin flip-flops) stepped
Between him and the Greek.
A glow came from her throat and from her hair
A fragrance that betokened the divine.
Stooping, she kissed him better, as
Queen Hera whispered: ‘Greek, cut that bitch.’
And, Diomed, you did; nicking Love’s wrist.

Studying the ichor as
It seemed across her pulse into her palm
Our Lady of the Thong lifted her other hand,
Removed a baby cobra from her hair
And dropped it, Diomed, onto your neck,
And saw its bite release its bane into your blood.
Then nobody could say
Who Diomed fought for, or for what he fought.

Rapt through the mass
Now shouting at the sky, now stomping on the plain,
He killed and killed and killed, Greek, Trojan, Greek.
Lord/less, shame/fame, both gone, and gone
Loyalty nurtured in the face of death,
The duty of revenge, the right to kill,
To jeer, to strip, to gloat to be the first,
To rally but the last to run, all gone–
And gone, our Lady Aphrodite, giggling.

–Christopher Logue, 1991

COMMENTARY: “War Music” was, essentially, Christopher Logue’s life’s work–a 5000 line retelling of Homer’s Iliad. Though Logue sticks with the familiar plot and characters of his source, he varies the tone and diction wildly, amplifying the lines and peppering them with contemporary images and references–for instance, Aphodite wearing snakeskin flip-flops and pyjamas. This excerpt is a rough retelling of an episode in book V of the Illiad. Though the Greek hero Diomed does indeed nick Aphrodite on the wrist (cutting through her divine robe), the revenge with the poison cobra is Logue’s own invention.

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