Thursday, February 11, 2010

Achilles and Patroclus (A Love Poem)

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Today's Gay Wisdom
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A Love poem from Jeff Mann

This lovely poem appeared in the Lovers issue of White Crane (#74). It's by the marvelous poet Jeff Mann, one of the most amazing Gay poets writing today. It features the mythic lovers Achilles and Patrocles. Enjoy it in the spirit of the upcoming Valentine's Day weekend.

Achilles and Patroclus
by Jeff Mann

Tomorrow, Patroclus.
It is fine armor, and you shall wear it.

Now, though,
do as you have always done.
Roast me the meat of the ox,

warm the rough bread,
dapple it with wild honey. Pour
into goblets, gifts of my father,

the piney wine you brought
from home. Bathe later,
I will bathe you. But now I love

the musk of courage,
the weary scent of you,
black hair like waves as yet unbroken

about your face, across
your breast. How many years
have feasts meant only you and I?

Our couch in firelight,
limbs intwined, drowsy
weight of you, beard brushing my back.

There is blood
on your brow. Kisses
of my mouth will cleanse you.

No, no more
weapons today. I promise
tomorrow. Must the son of a sea goddess

say Please?
Strength loves strength.
Who can stand against our arms?

After meat
and wine, close the tent flap.
What is sweetest is your sweat,

fur-salt I lap,
dark sea-way that leads
a warrior home. Such thick arms,

such small wrists.
Inside you I feel blood-
honey, blossom, stone. One day

these partings will depart.
Someone will chant our names,
remember our oath to lie in earth together—

leg bones, ribs
and skulls, these fingers
clasping your still-warm wrist.

Our wedding waits in the dark,
stained with fire, stained with wine.
Bone-urn befitting heroes, forever’s graven gold.

Jeff Mann is a poet, writer and teacher.
He recently won a Lambda Literary Award for his book History of Barbed Wire (Suspect Thoughts Press). White Crane interviewed him on his memoir/poetry collection Loving Mountains, Loving Men in issue #68. He is the author of numerous great books of poetry including On The Tongue, Bones Washed With Wine, Flintshards from Sussex and Mountain Fireflies. He teaches in the writing program at Virginia Tech.


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