I always played it safe, content to fight men
about whom no songs would ever be sung.
But when Odysseus cut down Charops~
my blood-brother~I raged, "Today, you die!"
The flesh wound enraged him. I turned and ran;
his spear caught me between my shoulder blades,
tore through my chest; dust smothered my nostrils.
He yanked out his spear and spun me over,
as you'd right a tortoise that vicious boys
have set on its spine, to watch it flail and die.
I thought it a kindness to a fallen foe;
but he wanted me to see and tremble
at the vultures circling low and lower.
Even after they plucked out my two eyes,
I couldn't die, but heard them, felt their beaks
taking their pleasure on my stubborn corpse.
"Kill me!" I'd hiss now, but they've found my tongue,
reduced me to croaking like Philomel,
after Tereus had raped and maimed her.
I'll lie forever, unable to die,
unless this already is grim Hades,
and I'm condemned to be forever pecked
and taloned by these carrion creatures.
Be damned, Odysseus, may you never
find your way back to stony Ithaka,
or if you do finally reach that shore,
may you mourn your palace in disorder,
your wife raped and dead, your son's bloody head