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Lost Strophe Of Andromache
Words by Anne Babson
Image by Gretchen Gales
We searched and worried about foes from the front.
I sat still swathed in black taffeta for Hector.
Then the Greeks rolled that gold carnival float uphill.
Didn’t they ever tell you about the gilding?
The stallion pummeled by gold foil and gem-studded?
Graying wolves, town elders left on our side of the gates,
Ran their paws up and down the siding and gushed praise.
In they wheeled their own death, thinking it a grand prize.
Horrified, I hiked up my black skirts and bounded.
“What do you think you are doing?” I yelled at them.
“I told you all last year that they were hacking us!”
They glared at me like I insulted their manhood.
They glowered, scolding me for the private serving
Girls I bought without their background checks. I stood firm.
I spread my widow skirts as wide as I could stretch.
But the cloth could not form a blockade against them.
They wheeled Greek treachery into the Oval Place.
“This will make our Troy great yet again,” men muttered.
They let me close enough to palm the fuselage.
They caressed the chassis, admired its hollow sheen.
I pressed my ear against it and heard the breathing.
I even heard a cough muffled from Ithaca.
“There are troops hidden there, gentlemen! Quick! Your spears!”
I shouted at them, but they shook their heads at me,
In a chorus, responded condescendingly,
“Woman! We trusted your husband.
But he got beat by a hero.
Was he a good man? Sure he was!
But we remember him losing.
You just don’t have the stamina.
We just find you unlikeable.
You don’t have a good leader’s look.
We find your voice shrill and grating.
Who would want a grandma to lead?
Not leadership material!
Why not give the gift horse a chance?”
I howled with frustration, and I left them for good.
I grabbed all that I could -- silk, jewels, gold, a sword,
Hector’s son, my serving girls they did not inspect,
And I slipped out the back gate of the doomed city.
The serving girls speak all the southern languages.
Through them I bartered for a boat to Dido’s land.
Aeneas showed up there years later. I warned her.
Don’t believe the fake news he composed about us!
He doesn’t know Venus! Queen Dido turned him down!
In his fake horror tale, he told her how I died!
I listened mouth open less than three yards from him.
He did not even see his cousin near his side.
Dido and I exchanged pregnant looks while he spoke.
One true thing Aeneas said about that evening:
Dido did really cry when he told her his lie.
She wept. She perceives, like I do, that history
Gets retold by men who hide in horses, not us.
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