Part 1: Athens Plague, 430 B.C.
Moonless nights still haunt me, memories
Of my sister, Korina, Athens and disease,
Lost to fevers, dreadful shapes, contorted
In death, dawn separated her from life,
Linen-draped body given to funeral pyres,
Sparks rising amongst the stars. Her soul
Ascended, greeted by immortal gods.
Of perilous plights, child survivors fled to
Sailing ships and oxen carts, given coin and
Jewels, fearful parents weeping, sorrowed
Embraces. By Korina’s burning bones, we took
To moonless crossroads, brightness of her
Young life and furious flames guided us from
Plague on desolate roads, our holy pilgrimage.
Without benefit of soft moonlight, we camped,
Fires burning, smoke uplifting, votive offerings
For our dead, effigies of siblings, fillet-bound
Twigs, locks of hair, strips of cloth, prayers
And incantations, sacred rites and fellowships
Made, we honoured our families and our dead,
Korina’s ashes buried at Athens cemetery.
For weeks I detested life and food, as animals
Fire-roasted tasted of burned flesh, rotting
Stench of death, ironies of life and sacrifices
Of sheep and pigs, slaughtered by our hands,
Blood spurted by sharp knives. Longing for
Sweet fruits, grains and olives, I questioned
Faith, words and wisdom of blesséd gods.
By solemn march from pestilence, we were
Shrouded in darkness, absence of moonlight
To guide us upon mountain meadows and
Lofty meads, to gaze restfully upon vine-
Clad hills, sleep amongst carpet of quiet ferns.
Starving, I stumbled into barren wood, on
Cloud-swept summit, stone temple I beheld.
Around 430 B.C., plague swept through Athens and
Greece, causing debilitating illness and death. Bodies
were reportedly left in streets, burned, and buried in
mass graves in Kerameikos cemetery. This poem
relates exodus of surviving children, fleeing to
mountains to escape disease.
Next is “Part 2: Unraveling Gods.”