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Ajax and Odysseus Dicing

ISSUE:  Autumn 1975
HAMS poised
on their high, potlike bronze helmets
the two heroes gesture in profile
like formal and magnified black ants.

A dog sits watching.
Their names, and the dog’s, float overhead
with BEAUTIFUL MIKON, near the acanthus handle
where the players’ spears are stacked.

High on the neck a tiny runner
between huge whited apotropaic eyes
then a slightly chipped formal meander . . .
Out on the windy plain
Achilles and his Myrmidons swarm an earthwork,
heroes gaze coldly through eyeslits:
“Patroldos also is dead, who was greater by far than you are.”

But Ajax and Odysseus go on playing dice.
The one is artful, the other mighty-handed.
Now Odysseus fingers his crisp beard,
his boot scuffles nearer the dice—
swiftly renowned Ajax stoops to read the cast.


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