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Brenda Townsend Hall

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Stone Creek Woman
by Sage Sweetwater

In honor of the Sacajawea dollar coin, Stone Creek Woman represents feminist frontiers..  
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by Brenda Townsend Hall

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Recent poems by Brenda Townsend Hall
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Old legend, but the horror of war remains the same


Dawn dew. My tears are the dawn dew.

Dawn blood.

Tomorrow the dawn dew

Will be my blood, spilt as the first line of light reddens the sky.

I am shivering, but the chill I feel is the cold blade in the rib,

The ragged bone through tattered flesh.

I have seen too much.

I remember every pitiful

Feartear shed by every startled child's eye,

Harder far to bear than the death cries from

A riven hero's final clash.

Death stench.

I try to smell the yellow broom,

But it has lost its scent.

Memory clings to my nostrils. If I close my eyes, I see it all again.

Carnage has its own taste and there is no forgetting.

What happened once and what must happen time after time,

Until we all remember.

Agamemnon is inside.

He would be safe out here.

But he has never known a life outside.

He must always act and enter,

Never pause to look and reflect.

So often he has stormed the walls,

Kicked open the sheltering door,

Refusing to wait, refusing to listen.

Break, take, rape.

Now, as he enters,

He finds each gift of welcome hides the knife;

A dagger skulks behind each smile.

I begged to stay outside.

He was glad enough, thinking first to appease her jealous rage.

What better prize to bring a patient wife than a king's daughter?

No greater symbol of his manhood and his valour.

'Clytemnestra, take the spoils of war.'

In greeting Clytemnestra I meet my death.

She sees only the looted slave,

The war-whore to be derided and put to the sword.

She cannot see that she and I are one.

Clytemnestra's pale and livid face reflects my own.

She is my other self and I know what lies behind her eyes.

The dawn has never been so real.

The birdsong is another kind of silence.

Each strand of sound pierces my pain with memory.

A nightingale's throaty, sobbing tale, and a lugubrious owl

Screaming in my skull: these are my days gone by;

My days no more to come.

Why was I the one to see?

I see and I remember and what I see is yet to be.

At first I didn't know they were all so blind.

I named my world as any child will name

A cat, a bird, a broken toy. My broken Troy.

On just such a dew-drenched morning

I heard the hoopoe's hollow tone,

And all at once I saw.

I saw the sword, the fire, the blood, the splintered bone.

But they, they could not open their eyes to so much pain.

They caged me in a dark tower

Where I whispered truths to the echoing walls.

Now the sunlight flickers through the larches.

Beneath their shade the children are asleep.

I try to forget just for an instant and imagine that

The children are safe. But it is no good.

Wherever I look, I see

And I remember what has been and what must be.

As the great door swings open,

A procession of slaves files through,

Each bearing a gift: a bowl of milk,

Honey, raisins and red cherries, ripe as blood.

Smiling they bid us eat and, after, to enter.

But it is not time.

Agamemnon sleeps inside.

At dusk they will prepare the feast.

One day I left the tower.

It was not hard to overpower my wardress.

Dressed in her robe, my wild hair bound,

My eyes downcast, I walked out of the city.

I sat by the shore and looked back at the citadel.

Memory is where it all began.

No-one had told me about those other gods,

Who looked to nurture and to care.

But now I knew all the lies that lay inside.

Outside I learnt to understand

What I saw. It was the wisdom

Of the women that made it all so clear.

Now I knew why I never was

That laughing girl, with smiling eyes.

Now I knew why I sat alone.

I knew why they called me mad, sad Cassandra.

Who was it who chose to forget?

It is an act of will.

Forgetting we sever one generation from the next.

We have to start again and repeat the pain.

The women were a chain of knowing,

Each passing her grain of truth to the next.

But we are not many who wish to remember.

What I foresaw, next I had to see

And now I must re-tell it all.

Threefold pain.

It would be easier to forget.

After the battle I watched our Trojan girls.

No-one was left to shield them from the victors' ugly lust.

Bloodshot. Blood-hard.

I can see the great coarse hands

Across their trembling mouths.

They swallow and choke on their own vomit

As their stomachs revolt at what their eyes dare not see.


In this nightmare

Each image stands vivid for a moment,

A branch caught in lightning, then fades.

A child left writhing on the ground.

Dismembered limbs still twitching as with half-remembered life.

A cloud of flies sticking to an open wound.

No, let me not see.

But even if I close my eyes, I hear the snap of slender necks.

I hear the shrieks and cries of the wounded and the dying

And it is still too much to bear.

Now I am in the temple and I turn

To face the foetid breath.

I feel the knee in the groin, the dry dust in my hair.

Look, there, where Polyxena, daughter of the royal blood,

Is put to the sword to satisfy a hero's pride,

His bride in death.

How can I forget? Memory scars every moment of the day.

A sudden memory of the future makes me shudder.

Can there never be an end?

The sun is high.

The children sit in fear and neither speak nor weep.

I watch. I watch.

The door opens on a single herald.

He does not smile. He brings no food.

It doesn't matter.

The children can find wild strawberries in the woods.

We turn away to follow the path into the thicket.

We know the place where the sweetest fruit will grow.

A shout arrests us.

He commands.

I desist.

I resist.

But there is no point. We return.

Grim-faced he goes inside.

It is not hunger that is clawing at my guts.

Clytemnestra, I know you.

You have lost the links in the chain.

You are myself before I learnt

What the wise ones taught me.

You too were dragged away by mighty Agamemnon.

We have no cause to love the leader of men.

It is not you I fear,

Only this senseless, endless piling of pain on pain.

But you do not see how blood calls for blood.

By his death, and mine, you seal your own fate.

Clytemnestra remember how it

Felt to see a father kill his child.

And can you imagine something worse?

Yes, there is worse if you take this step

Tomorrow the son you suckled at the breast

Will face you with murder in his heart.

Yet you could start afresh and

Weave a different pattern in the cloth of time.

I was not alone today.

The children had their nurse.

But I have sent her off before the blood-stained end.

Our chariot-driver too, was here.

He is still not far away.

He will be the one. He will remember.

He will see and will not fear to speak.

They are not many, but they are enough

To make sure we never forget.


The day prepares for rest.

Birds of prey begin to circle overhead.

Within, the deathdance is starting.

They no longer send their minions.

But a guard surveys us from the wall,

A harrier ready to swoop.

Aegisthus is already in the hall.

He needs good, strong wine before this deed.

Agamemnon keeps to his room.

When the sun seeks shelter in the night, he will come down.

I have been asleep.

I dreamt of you, my love. I felt your lips on my eyelids

And the palm of your hand at the small of my back.

Sweet dreamsleep, damp desire.

I wake and I am cold.

Just for a moment I recalled the tenderness of love.

But only in sleep.

It is all lost in one moment in the temple.

Again I am crushed by stinking sweat and brutal arms.

If only I could breathe.

The juddering loins draw back and I am still alive.

Aeneas, we did not say good-bye.

You tried to force me to leave,

To join the thin trickle of those

Who would sail away and start anew.

But I was not one of your men to command.

As I walked back to the blackened ruins

Of the beloved city, I thought I was going beyond pain.

But there is always more.

Now the moon hangs heavy in the sky.

Bats and owls have claimed the night.

Agamemnon, she is preparing your bath,

Web-bed, caul-pall, blood-blade, bride-blood.

Agamemnon, you will wallow in blood.

Mooncold shadows parade their dance of death

From stately oak to stripling pine,

Each one the wraith of some unnumbered,

Half-remembered, slaughtered soul.

Red is memory's colour. The blood token.

Remember Troy, the broken city.

At dawn my blood will ooze beneath the door.

I, who saw so much, so much, will see no more.

Worlds part Review

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Reviewed by C. Challinor
Potent imagery; very masterful. (Sophie Simonet)
Reviewed by Floreann Cawley
outstanding..Floreann *****
Reviewed by Amor Sabor
An epic very well written.
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