Ekphrastic (I) by Andrew Szilvasy

Ekphrastic (I)

Sarcophagus Depicting a Battle between Soldiers and Amazons

The broken, headless warriors fight, of course,
for love: the men, to glorify their names
(and Rome), beat back the force of spear and horse
and roam the marble coffin, numb now and tamed;
the Amazons, as Herodotus tells us,
must kill a man if they’re to marry one,
and so they battle, by life and love impelled
to fell a Roman, or else live alone.

Need they present the bloody witness of a man?
The limbless, or the beheaded on this tomb—
was it for future husbands they remain
. . . . . . . . . .Think on this, and think too on
the man who, missing and missed, waits instead
at home, longingly, for a severed head.

by Andrew Szilvasy, first published in Shot Glass Journal.

Poet’s Note: The original piece is a sarcophagus at the Houston MFA.

Editor’s Note: The mythological speculation of this poem culminates with a surprising emotional impact in the final three lines.

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