Flora (white dress), John William Waterhouse, 1890. Courtesy of www.jwwaterhouse.com
Flora (white dress), John William Waterhouse, 1890.
Courtesy of www.jwwaterhouse.com

At first, I thought they were walking clouds,
Transparent sea-lights that roamed into our
Village as evening mist gathered amongst
Warring shores. As they approached, sullen
And exhausted, vaporous forms bore faces,
Fallen soldiers, Athenian and Spartan alike,
Some still armor-clad, seeking eternal rest.

When I told my mother, she doubted, yet
Her heart said otherwise, as she lived in
Obedience to our gods, prayers and sacrifices
Made. She knew souls of unburied dead
In angst struggled, deprived of death rites,
Would roam our hillsides, haunt our olive
Groves until gods otherwise decreed.

For decades we lived wars of stagnation,
Human slaughter on open ground, clamour
Of sword and shield, Spartan against Athenian,
Disputes over our prosperity, death knell of
Grecian dominance, ruination by those who
Raised voices and weapons, our existence
hapless as wind-desiccated fields.

In numbers, they entered our village, restless
Homecomings, collapsing by stone houses,
Shades seeking refuge with us. One lost soul,
Amber glowing light, poured onto my bed,
Breathless and unmoving, as if twice killed by
War’s malignant venom. What could we to do
To allay death-pains of peltast’s javelins?

As targetier-souls gathered, we were unstrung
By dark despair, not knowing what course to
Take. We prayed at household shrines, made
Burnt offerings day and night, still they held
Fast to us, desiring release to divine light. In
Love, I prayed aloud for them, my name Flora,
God-fearing Athenian farm girl.

During morning prayers, Athena spoke, airy
voice all could recognize, mortal flesh and
Troubled dead, gathering close at our home.
Our task no easy one, we gathered urns of
Blesséd earth. When battles subsided, on each
Body we graced handfuls of soul-releasing dust,
Shades ascending in liberated numbers.

For those who died before Athena’s divine
Decree, we gathered bones from picking vul-
Tures, placing them in marble shrines. As we
Sprinkled dust upon them, spirits leapt to
Beckoning light. Years later, I bring flowers
And whilst seated quietly, offer prayers for
Fallen brave and bold in solemn resting peace.

“Her gray eyes clear, the goddess Athena answered, “Down from the
skies I come to check your rage if only you will yield.” ― Homer

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