My youth worsened by ravages of war, I was
Old enough to understand, many daughters
Without fathers, mothers laboring on farms,
In fields beneath beating sun, fed and bathed
Us during evenings, fell asleep exhausted,
Startled awake by nightmares. We all shared
Weight of heavy burdens, grief surpassing
Tears, mothers and older daughters.
I remember nights the sea burned. From
Clifftops watching cloud-illuminating flames,
Worse than ocean lightning strikes, we tasted
Rancid smoke of clashing triremes, felt death
Beyond our years. To this day, I cannot discern
Which is worse, to sequester children from
Dread, or in witnessing it, their horror-vacant
Faces, help them fathom fears?
Such quandaries, protecting children with or
From lies, saying no ships were ablaze, for in
Few days, what did we discover? Beach-washed
Bodies, lifeless, pale, some eaten on by fish and
Crabs, as if in death, they were determined to
Swim home, wrinkled hands grasping sands of
Greek shores. No one could explain, for they,
Too, were overwhelmed, tending to our dead.
Worse than sorrows combined, was building
Funeral pyres. I watched as stately pines fell,
Like children, more innocents sacrificed to war.
Burden of lifting bodies upon wood frames,
Lifeless weight unable to help, regrets felt past
Death’s dark door. When elder men asked who
Would light first pyres, I stepped forth, daughter’s
Hand raised. Tears streaming, I thrust torch to
Awaiting boughs, catharsis of all-consuming blaze.
By acts of bravery, flames purged fears and lies.
At adolescent age, boys became men, girls elevated
To women, mothers. For certain, I did not lie to
Protect my children. I told them what they could
Understand, feelings to express their grief in ways
Often denied. Such are an elder mother’s memories,
Stepping forth, torches held high, Greek war dead,
Flames set to hundred funeral pyres.
Referencing neither Greek gods nor prayer, this poem
delves into psyche of young daughter and eventually elder
mother, regarding ravages of Greek wars and death.
Written whilst listening to “Home” by Austra.