what began as year-long challenge has become perpetual until further notice
she beseeched, grovelled, tongued the air
clawed the gods he’d rather follow
and when she was done with hair threading her fingers
spent with the sound of her own mewing in her ears
she spoke with honeyed tongue
in eloquent yellow
teeth dipped in myrrh
words fragrant with an alternative to Rome
who, the seers said, would also inhale flame and song
the hangnail distance
shrank his pupils
had she not met worse treachery,
sank a widow’s wealth in sand
to the bottom of the Mediterranean?
she put up her hands
had her little sister collect
paint flame to it
and the soot ghosted
sang the gift-blade
sank steel enough to make herself comfortable
she lit the gloaming
like an eye – if he saw,
if he glanced into his shield –
widened in surprise
could mistake the end for daybreak.
Alyssa the Carthage Queen – also known as Elissa, and, more famously, Dido – had fallen in love with Aeneas, a Trojan hero who was the son of Aphrodite and the prince Anchises.
For six years after Troy’s fall, Aeneas wandered the seas, predestined to be the founder of the city of ancient Rome. A goddess-sent storm swept him to the shore of Carthage, where he encountered Elissa and continued a year-long love affair – and a marriage of sorts – with the queen.
Compelled by the gods once more to fulfill his destiny, he left Elissa and she, in her despair, had her sister Anna build a pyre under the pretend of burning all of Aeneas’ belongings, and their marriage bed. When the fire was ignited, the queen climbed onto the burning bed and fell on the sword she had given Aeneas when they’d first met.
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