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Ten Days Troilus Waits for Cressida

Josh Booth explores the age-old story of Troilus and Cressida in this evocative poem.

Behind the heat-devils that dance on Trojan sands, 

A silver crescent wavers. 

It looks out of place on the placid blue 

Like a lone fish scale, flicked and floating 

On saltwater – suspended for a moment – 

Before it sinks,  

Swallowed by sea, 

And blurs to nothing in its depths.  


From these high white walls I hear 

The shriek of an owl. The violence

Of its call astounds:

A night-born banshee’s wail  

That shatters still air into slivers 

Cutting at the belly of the night.  

Above me, the Milky wheel turns round and round, 

Spinning Fortune’s golden thread  

Into Fate’s mouth. 

Her iron teeth are ready to bite  

When Fury commands,  

And between the stars,  

Venus descends in silent harmony 

While Mars blots the sky with red. 

As Phoebus wakes, 

Spreading rays low and long  

From the lazy lanterns of his chariot, 

Each pillar of the temple is bathed 

In rosy light. It weaves 

A net of rainbows from the dewdrops 

Of their night-sweat.  

That cold, Palladian marble  

Is fire-dyed, its rivulets 

Awash with a toil  

Of gleam and shadow.  

But the acanthine curves  

Are overwrought.  

The colonnades shift with figures  

Too lost to be seen. 

Their limbs are stone, 

Their bodies ice.  

The sunrise freezes at their touch. 


In the midst of it all, 

Pallas Athena waits; 

She is waiting for the arms  

That must drag her out of Troy.

And all the statues are weeping,

For in the garden beneath the wall, 

A swallow sings of

The blood that swells in its breast.


And all the statues are weeping, 

For in the garden, under the ivy,  

A nightingale chants 

That it will always remain 


Artwork by Rachel Jung.

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