close-up marble face
Photo by Andres Herrera on Unsplash

Akhilleus by Harrison Voss

They would’ve called you deathless,

not wrathful,

had destiny’s thread been ours to spin.

I would’ve borne the arrow and the spear,

your fate and mine, if I knew what suffering

the stars had in store.

Rage! Rage! That’s all the world will know—

your name painted in your victims’ blood,

russet letters folded over black sanded dunes.

They’ll never know those same bleeding arms

could cradle lovers more gently

than the bodies of the dead.

Rage! Rage! Throttle the gods, their sons and daughters,

fill my void with flesh and gore. The waves of foes slaughtered

will be your mark, a plinth in the sand for men to bow to.

So rage, they say: rage for your honor, rage for your love,

rage for your name and its unending call.

It’s too late for your soul, already dead,

her vapors coiling in Hades’ dark beside me.


Harrison Voss is a native New Yorker and recent college graduate. He has published research and essays on the Eastern Roman Empire, Classical Athens, and Roman poetry, and several short stories set in antiquity. When not writing, you can find him running, reading, or scrolling through Twitter.

Author's note

My inspiration for this poem derived, as one might suspect, from my love of Homer's ancient epics. When I studied the Iliad as an undergraduate, I fell in love with the ways in which Homer deftly crafted the relationship between his heroes, Akhilleus and Patroklos, in order to reflect the pair as two halves of the same warrior, the same soul—Akhilleus the rage, Patroklos the compassion. My poem is an attempt to accentuate this unity, and to honor Homer's graceful suggestion that sometimes losing those we love most means losing our humanity as well.