Aeneas escaping Troy
The plane is loading fast, passengers stowing their bags and
taking their seats, and the cockpit door is open. He can see down
the aisle and through the window to where lights break on the
runway and, further away, the fire and the reason they are
moving fast, travelling light, preparing for flight. The captain
turns to eye up his passengers, and the crew members go
through the motions, and then they are airborne, looking
through the portholes at what they have just escaped, walls of
fire, and behind that, only black.
Aeneas deserting Dido
The way she walks ahead of him, her buttocks swelling and
flattening with each step. His hands know their muscle, and the
turn to softness when she straddles him—the thought of it still
shakes him, even after all these months. She is so—he scratches
for the right word, he has forgotten so much since going into
exile—though ‘exile’, that’s a word that for ten years and more
has been on the tip of his tongue—so capable, he thinks. His Dido.
Always on top of her game. He trails behind, watching the
movement of her hips, choreographing tonight’s encounter,
knowing that this can’t last, won’t last, that he has something
burnt about him, something that won’t heal, that the fire is
following him. He cannot stay.
Aeneas finding Rome
He called it ‘finding’ though it had never been mislaid. But when
he lifted his ancient father from the boat, and lifted his small son
from the boat, and stood with them between the sea and the
unfamiliar hills, he realised that he at least had been found. He
gathered wood, and set a fire: this was no time for niceties. What
happened next has been expunged from the story. The blood, the
burning. But it’s over now, and he is here, still bearing the dead
weight of all he left behind, still waking at night in breathless
panic. They are all there, Aeneas and his father and his son, alive
again each morning, forgetting Troy and the journey and what
they did to claim this land, forgetting their lost lives, the bones
they could not gather, the graves they never filled.
Jen Webb is a poet who works at the University of Canberra, and has been published by journals and anthologies in Australia, Canada, the USA, UK and China. She is the author of several poetry chapbooks and, with Paul Hetherington, of Watching the World: Impressions of Canberra (Blemish Books 2015).