PoetryIssue 4 | April 2009

Two poems by Lily Iona MacKenzie

Troy XI

        As the swarms of flies
(seethe) over the shepherds’ stalls…
so many long-haired Achaeons swarmed across
  the plain
to confront the Trojans….
 

—Book 2, lines 555-59, The Iliad

A hot day and a hush
silences the flies.  I think
I see the soft curve

of a woman’s hip under swaying
cloth.  Goats graze surrounding fields,
the sea now far in the distance.
Sthenelos sprang to the ground
from his chariot / and standing
beside him pulled the sharp arrow clean

through his shoulder.  I stroke
the stone wall, rough surface crusted

with age.  Fine dust clings
to my fingers.  Rocks
evenly stacked row upon row

meander, connecting all ten
Troys, collapsed into each other
like Russian dolls.  Three thousand

years prod cracks and a farrago of lives.
Our feet graze rock slabs
slick as time.  I expect to hear

a horse’s whinny or a donkey’s
bray, smell flesh sizzling
over coals, see a warrior’s blood

spurting through the delicate tunic.
Weeds poke through spaces
between stones and blood

red poppies thrive among
remains.  We stop and watch
ants the size of stars lugging

bits of straw.  They descend
through a hole underground,
building their own Troy.

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About the author

A Canadian by birth, Lily Iona MacKenzie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she teaches writing at the University of San Francisco. Her work has been published in numerous venues, including The Malahat Review, Other Voices, and The Denver Post.  Her interviews with Brenda Hillman appear in Indiana Review and Berkeley Poetry Review.

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