This week our Friday Poem is taken from More for Helen of Troy, Simon Mundy’s keenly satirical, and often poignantly lyrical collection.
The opening, titular sequence is a series of vignettes of the immortal Helen. In some, such as ‘Perfect Nights’, we see Helen in an intimate, close-up frame: ‘Lying awake and naked but mercifully / Alone’. But in others, like our featured poem ‘The Solider’s Song’, Helen of Troy instead takes on her mythical status, being unreachable: her perfection only imagined, yet all the more keenly felt. The unnamed soldier of this poem has never seen the fabled beauty, yet his worship of Helen has an authenticity to it, with her reputation alone being enough to conjure hope and admiration.
The Soldier’s Song
She is so far away
I have never smelled her skin,
Felt the texture of her dress,
Once a voice sounded silken enough to fit
The official picture but it was nothing
I could prove – just a distant
Parting of the air that carried hope.
No woman I have touched is worth my life
No goddess needs it
But she is not for touching
And the years will leave her
Warm when I am mud.