Cantito Two

- the sacrifice of Iphegenia

Always begin great ventures
with sacrifice: a virgin's death.
No reason to delay
when the waters of the bay
boil and bubble.

"The catch," the General said,
"is to ensure the maidenhead,
and then a wine to make her docile,
fit to dance with the divine,

and she must be fair and fine,
a woman made for gods and men
to risk so much." A slight quiver,
the wind's or some god's touch -

her body ripples with the water's beat
and sinks beneath the waves.
Sails lift to the sky, and the fleet
lurches through the blood-bought day.

She had been beautiful, I thought,
so pure and not one scream slipped
between her lips. "The wine," the General
said, but it was more than wine.

I did believe some god had held her
fast and, at the moment she was thrown
away and the winds lost their calm,
that shudder in the ship came

from more than filling sails and straining
masts. Blood mixed with salt spray,
warm water, a hot hot day, brave
portents for protracted war.

- H. Palmer Hall