Brian Brodeur

Young Achilles

Bored of playing swords, bare-faced Achilles
trundles down the dunes at Skyros Harbor
to search the shoreline for washed-up debris.
He watches a man work a spit into a mackerel
and wipe gore from his knife on the rags he wears.
Why should he get to light fires on the beach
and swim in the ocean without a chaperone?
Achilles collects as many stones as he can carry.
The first one he lobs splashes a tide pool
beside the man, spattering foam on his feet.
Squinting, the man turns to survey the dunes
as Achilles aims, chucking another stone.
He strikes the man’s groin. The man collapses.
“I want you off my beach,” Achilles screams.
Your beach?” says the man. “That’s right, my beach.”
Achilles hurls one bigger than his fist.
“Yes!” he hisses. The man’s brow bleeds.
Blood and sweat drip down his filthy cheeks
as he clasps his hands, asking for mercy, mercy.
Achilles smiles. Why shouldn’t he be feared?
He wishes he could throw stones at the sea
and stop the senseless tide from shifting.
The man has stopped moving. Achilles advances,
and flips him on his back with his sandaled foot.
Close up, the man looks young. His skinny arms
could be a boy’s arms twisted underneath him.
Sand fleas flick in and out of his mouth.
Careful not to step in the darkened mud,
tender-heeled Achilles bows to stroke
the man’s wet face and hair, closing his eyes.
“There, there,” he says, “that’s better, go to sleep.”

Brian Brodeur is the author of the poetry collections Natural Causes (Autumn House Press 2012) and Other Latitudes (University of Akron Press 2008). He is as an Assistant Editor at Cincinnati Review.