Helen to Telemachus

The lady Helen
[cried out] at the sudden sight of the heavenly sign,
and these were her words to Odysseus’ son:
“Telemachus, this is surely some messenger from on high,
flown down through the fathomless air and gone
screeching away with the voice of killing death.
Even thus will Odysseus appear in your house
…by the will of Athena.
[But if you thin]k “this is but a chattering crow”,
me, I will not hold you here…
–Stesichorus, fr. 209

What I mean is don’t go
though I know
you need to. I must

go, too. I’ve got my legacy
of gleaming
to make. From crystalline

braids to powdered-
cream feet,
I’ll be all golden, crushed

on a vase, the face-
side of coins. What a hell
of a bone structure,

they’ll say someday,
won’t know the olive-black lashes
raying my light

purple eyes are just fakes. And, yes,
it’s only a bird.
All it means is everything

ugly and true.
If your father’s alive,
you’ll have some years,

and he’ll die.
I’ll go, then you
into holes

dark as crows.
It means if you lie
in the leaves

with me and listen,
our cries
will snag on the sky.