The Death of Penthesilea
They sweat and groan,
he thrusts, she moans,
Not lovers, no affection in battle,
they lust for each others’ blood,
overcome by the heat of war.
Blade strikes blade,
shield deflects shield,
broad in their armor with
faceless strength behind
her horse slain,
he sees a long-haired warrior,
formidable, tall, strong,
he examines the length of her,
the curve beneath her armor,
the stretch of her muscled legs,
and he must conquer her.
He must win.
most powerful of the Greeks fighting
for himself, for a short life, knows he
will die soon, but with glory and fame.
He is content to die a hero’s death,
his choice for immortality over life.
Yet his strikes seem untrained to hers,
he does not attack and only defends,
in awe of the woman warrior,
dancing with sword and shield,
twirling in sandals and armor,
her only breast exposed, not
maternal but powerful, she
fights against men with the pride of
women, the pride of women.
His breast plate filled with arrows:
hers. None pierce him, but fill him with
his famous rage, rage for fighting kings.
Her graceful war dances stop him with
shield and turns,
parries to nothing against
him, his feet firm in the dirt,
square, unmoving, immutable.
He waits, she tires.
She spins with a final blow,
screaming, her head high in the
air, and as her sword whirls through
the air, The Raging One impales her
though her armor with a single stroke,
as her dance turns into him.
She falls, a spin onto her back,
her hair spread beneath her,
panting, pink, shining with sweat.
Her hands hold her core,
a deep gash runs from hip to hip,
through a womb that will never hold a child.
But as she crumbles, as she falls,
the son of Peleus drops his sword
to the blackened dirt, and catches her.
He falls with her, and she lies in his arms,
Prone across his lap, she holds her wound,
And spits blood, and whispers, “Achilles.”
He must see her face.
Who is this woman who has conquered him
as he has overcome her body
on the plains of Ilium?
As she rests against him, breast heaving,
he pulls her helmet from her head.
Black hair falls back to reveal her lovely face:
Dark skin warm and caked with sweat,
she breaths blood from her parted lips,
gray eyes peer up and search for his.
He swiftly pulls his helmet from his head,
and lets it fall and roll across the ground.
“I am here, my Queen” he utters softly.
The greatest warrior among Greeks
holds her close, and wipes the
blood from her lips.
He presses his glistening
brow to hers, his golden hair matted
against her forehead.
She reaches her shaking hand to
grasp his arm.
The queen retains her Amazonian strength,
even as she slips towards the Styx.
She looks for him, and his eyes meet hers.
He shudders. She sees through him.
For a moment, they are within one another,
as lovers always are.
As the battle crashes around them,
She forms words to the Myrmidon prince,
but can only breathe blood.
He wipes it away and kisses her,
And in the soft, even voice of a lover,
murmurs, “Good night, dear queen.”
She rises briefly to meet her
conqueror’s kiss and then her grip eases,
Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons,
slowly slips towards the underworld,
drifting from the world of mortals,
safely falling asleep in her beloved’s arms.
Anna Granville was born in New York. She has returned to writing after a four-year hiatus. She currently lives in California on the edge of the Pacific.