Helen laughed as she ran from the palace of Greece, feet quiet on the wooden floor. A part of her died that day, but a part was born. There is a dark joy in leaving behind everything familiar for a taste of the unknown.
Icarus was silent when he fell from the sky, plummeting to the churning sea, spurned by the sun’s warmth. Acrid smoke filled his lungs as his body went up in flames, a burning so intense that he could have charred the entire earth, made it a burnt-out shell beneath him. He could not draw the breath to scream.
Atlas accepted the weight of the sky without a protest, and they thought that he was understanding. How could they have known that he was simply bowing to his fate, exhaustion in his bones? A man who carries the weight of the world is easily broken.
Heracles did not cry when he slew his children. Drawing blades is easy, the aftermath is not. When he saw their blood spilled by his own hands, that is when the tears began to fall. Everyone has regrets, but there is a sort of beauty in looking back at them and knowing that it is final, when finality is all that is certain.
Pandora was not driven by curiosity, but by desperation. In a world where infamy is easily achieved, she strove to be remembered. When she trapped Hope it was the hope that she would live on in the stories and in the hearts of men. How could she have known how much damage she would wreak?
Here is what they don’t tell you: the heroes could not handle their gifts. They were too human.
What in fact is Helen the paradigm for? As justification for why men should wage war for a decade, her erotic aura is so overwhelming that even the Trojan elders acknowledge its irresistibility; yet she herself makes an effort to resist erōs. On the one hand, then, she is the contended object, the prize whose seizure prompts battle, according to the warriors’ own ideological representations; on the other hand, she is in Iliadic representation a speaking subject, a human being given voice in the epic, a woman who exceeds the meanings men have made of her, even as her sisters in captivity (Briseis) and marriage (Andromache) are given epic voice. Representing both the alienated condition of a Briseis and the assimilated condition of an Andromache, Helen’s speech is introspective, questioning, critical and self-critical, regretful, realistic.
Nancy Felson & Laura Slatkin, Gender and Homeric Epic
Perhaps the legends are wrong,
perhaps they’ve been warped,
perhaps the powerful wrote them.
Perhaps the tales are told wrong.
Perhaps Hades captured Kore,
named maiden and stifled
and in iron chains that burned
against her skin.
Kore whose mother
refused to let her go.
Perhaps he whispered against her ear,
whispered to Kore who wanted to be free,
when her mother came to ‘rescue’ her,
“I know a way you may stay,
“I know a way you may be free,”
Perhaps she ate pomegranate seeds neatly,
pushed them through dusky pink lips,
fingers stained red.
Perhaps their hands were entwined
when Hades crowed that Kore could not leave,
when she laughed that she was reborn
as Persephone of destruction and murder.
Perhaps she left him because
she was a creature of sunlight,
perhaps she returned to him because
she was a creature of freedom.
Perhaps Helen ran with Paris,
hands and feet unbound,
far away from a cruel husband
who thought she could be tamed.
Perhaps Helen tasted freedom and young love
in the night air as she stole away.
Perhaps she laughed and whooped
as she escaped the confines of a castle,
of the heavy and thick air
that suffocated her.
Perhaps she reveled in Paris
and his quick, loyal love.
Perhaps she saw the war
and the bloodshed
and didn’t mourn,
Perhaps the first time Menelaus
dared tell her what to do,
she hissed that there was divinity in her blood
and he would learn to regret that.
Perhaps Icarus smiled as he fell,
because the sky was wildness and freedom,
because the sun burned so brightly.
Perhaps he laughed.
Perhaps it was the euphoria,
perhaps it was the passion,
perhaps it was the love,
perhaps it was the way the sun seared,
that led to his fall.
Perhaps he would never dream
of turning back time
and changing what he did,
because the sun seared,
and the falling felt like flying
except even more exhilarating,
with the promise of pain,
and because it was freedom.
Perhaps the honest truth is
it all came down to freedom.