All the old stories are new, and all the old gods are true.

History lesson beginning with a fragment from Aeschylus ; by nick lantz (from jubilat 30.5)

Nick kindly gave me permission to share it with you here, since it’s not available elsewhere. You can find all of his books here.

the eagle, struck

by an arrow,

looks down

& recognizes

its own feather

fletching the shaft


Agamemnon killed his daughter

for a fair wind. For a wall. For a better

deal. Because a priest told him to.

To make his country great again.

For this, Clytemnestra, his wife,

killed Agamemnon, & for that,

their son, Orestes, killed her back.

Remember, now, that Clytemnestra

was the daughter of Leda, raped

by a swan. her sister, Helen, we blame

for launching all those Greek ships

that needed the wind for which

Agamenon killed his daughter,

for which Clymenestra killed

her husband & oh yes (don't forget)

also Cassandra, the concubine

he took from Troy. Poor Cassandra,

who killed no one, but who was raped

in the temple of Athena, an act

for which Athena cursed the Greeks,

who she'd sent to Troy in the first place.

But even before that, it was Apollo

who forced himself on Cassandra

(another temple, another rape),

and when she refused, but never to be

believed, & so Cassandra knew it all

beforehand (the ships, Ajax's breath

on her neck on the temple floor

the knife in Clytemnestra's hand),

but when she warned the Trojans

what was waiting at their gates

they locked her in a prison.

Oh, & what happened to Orestes,

who killed his mother, who'd killed

his father, who'd killed

his sister?

He got off at trial, & the Furies

who wanted nothing but to tear

his flesh had to sit on their claws,

tamed now to the rule of law, to the will

of the people (the same people, who,

on Aeschylus's epitaph, recorded

his military deeds & never mentioned

his tragedies), & if it seems unclear

which side I'm asking you to choose -

the bloodless law or the bloody Furies -

it's only because I can't choose,

& anyway neither side ever cared

much about Cassandra or Leda

or Iphigenia (that was the name

of the daughter Agamemnon killed),

only the glory of the civilization

those great men made on their bloody

islands amid that wine-dark sea.