"A Flower Stall," John William Waterhouse, 1880, Wikiart photo. For this poem, Anya is seated.
“A Flower Stall,” John William Waterhouse, 1880, Wikiart photo. For this poem, Anya is seated.

Oh, why are we at war again? For we have made
Praise and supplication to the gods, heaven
Sent libations in holy temples and family shrines.
Yet a hundred trireme ships clash, a thousand
Arrows wailed, flames burned opposing sails,
Pennants flying, as death marches unimpeded
Towards Corinth and her defended shores.

A city protected by a thousand shields and
Swords, brave soldiers watching o’er our gates
And citadels, prepared to push back Spartan
Ranks, defend our domicile, armored guards
With spears at ready. For this, I feared not for
Myself, but for my family and for one we loved
As our own, Anya, modest flower girl.

For one hundred coins of gold, I sent word to her
Family that Anya would be safe, for we all were
Seeking shelter before onslaught of frenzied fights.
As my daughter or a sister, it mattered not when
Anya adorned a regal crimson gown, she was of my
Family, attended by servants and soldiers sworn
To sacrifice their lives for us.

When I arrived at her tented-flower tables, they
Were turned asunder, baskets and blooms strewn
Across a stone terrace. As Anya huddled, barefoot
And afraid on archway steps, without question
She grasped my hand and ran, Spartans barraging
Our city gates, to protection of a mother’s caring,
Safety of patrician home.

As dread night fell, death wandered our shores,
Bodies of each warring side claimed, ocean-side
Funeral pyres, their souls rising sparks ascending
Heavenward throughout the flaming night. Shawl-
Wrapped mourning figures, wives, sisters, daughters
In solemn grief, uttered incantations to gods, deaf
Ears to needless violence of harsh-protracted wars.

By dawning light, Spartans laid siege on Corinth,
Battering ram and catapults heaving wall-shattering
Stones. With hails of arrows we struck back, fiery
Oil, our enemies burned black on bloody ground.
We fended off their advances, second and third
Waves, until weakened walls and gates crumbled
From continuous, scorned attacks.

When clashing sword and shield reached our
House, captain of our guard beckoned me for
Defeat was feared at hand. In secret he provided
Me his dagger and a poison-filled bowl. Distilled
From hemlock seed and leaves, sips of Thanatos’
Potion numbed pain of death before my family
Died by stabbing dagger death.

Sword impacting fluted columns within our
Domicile foretold of certain death. My family
Understood honour of self-demise, each in
Sacred duty taking lethal sips of poison bitter.
Sweet Anya knew not such loyalties or pained
Expectations, to die by one’s own hand than
Enter into servitude of enemies we swore to kill.

Clad in her crimson gown, our enemies knew
Anya as our own, offending ruling class, killed
Or captured, our plight as each guard fell right
Before our eyes. Refusing poisoned fate, in
Panicked fear, she ran to our enemies, returning
To my side. As they lunged forward, I stabbed
Anya hilt-deep within her chaste heart.

Following prescribed rituals, as my loved ones
Burned on pyres, they crossed the River Styx,
Their souls heaven leapt. For my lovely Anya, she
Was laid to rest adorned with pink roses, blooms
And buds. In pained silence, I prayed for forgive-
Ness, atrocities I had committed, death of our
Beloved innocent, grievous insults to her family.

Ironically, our city survived weeks of siege, our
Enemies repelled, my children needlessly killed,
Though guilt that heart-tortures worst was taking
Anya’s life.  A childless widow wandering a distant
Town, my heart knows no balm when passing
Quietly another flower stall. My fair Anya, may
Your sprit gleam, exalted amongst the gods.

“Unhappy one, how you are made of rock or iron, who will kill the children, whom you birthed, with death by your own hand. I have heard of one woman before this who laid her hands on her own dear children: Ino, maddened by the gods, when the wife of Zeus sent her wandering from her home.” – Euripides, “Medea,” 1278-1283.

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