Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Thursday, May 12, 2022


by Gail White

Apulian Red-Figure Amphora by the Painter of the Berlin Dancing Girl ca. 430-410 BCE depicting Achilles and Briseis. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Women have few speaking parts
in the Iliad. At the beginning,
Briseis is torn away from Achilles
with never a word. But when Agamemnon
finally decides to make up the quarrel
and sends her back, Patroclus is dead
and her grief is for him, the most decent man
in the crowd, and the kindest.
You would not let me grieve, she says,
when Achilles had killed my father and brothers
and taken me captive; you always promised
Achilles would marry me.

That's what the women
have to look forward to in wartime:
with any luck, the man who murdered
your brothers will marry you. Although Achilles
did no such thing. Most likely he shunted
her off to the loom and kept her weaving
new tunics for him while he sent letters
over the wall to young Polyxena,
the bait that would lead him to his death.

Soldiers die, and the race of heroes
is gone: today there is no Achilles,
Patroclus, or angry Agamemnon.
But look at the eyes of captured women:
Briseis is there, forever dragged
away, forever and ever silent.

Gail White is a formalist poet and a contributing editor to Light. Her most recent collections are Asperity Street and Catechism. She lives in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, with her husband and cats.