Stefan Ferguson

Agamemnon, having returned victorious from the Trojan War, finds himself defeated in other ways: haunted by his sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia, confronted by his murderous wife Clytemnestra. This poem reimagines elements of the Iliad and Aeschylus' Oresteia, focusing on Agamemnon's feelings of guilt and the transformations, both physical and psychological, that he as a result undergoes.


I have put on bronze and gold

                                   The image of a king        

                                               Of the House of Atreus

I have stood at the walls of Troy

           And torn them down

                                   Stone by stone

I have ridden my enemies into the sand

And surfed the Aegean wreathed

           In the smoke of victory

                       So hot and sharp in the nostrils

                       So savoury on the tongue

I have returned home

I have trodden the purple carpet    

           My steps echo the steps of my ancestors

                       And what am I now

                                   What is going to happen to me now

Slowly               suddenly

I feel myself being born into something new

           I had not expected this

                       An inexorable agonizing birth

                                   Of newness

                       Something on the mind

                       Some change in the composition of the body


                                               With time

I am becoming the wounds

                       The crimson wounds

That lace Iphigenia's body

                                   Those bloody serpents

The ciphers of my monster self

           That I carved into her flesh

           With my own hands

                       My own hands

In my lust for honour



I wear her blood now as a mask

           Behind my eyes

Invisible but latched into place

Ratcheting the light that enters

           Through my eyes

                       To blood-red madness

Twisting every beautiful dream or vision

Every swallow in the sky

                       To a charnel-house scene

           And words          my own              hers

Hers                  have become snakes                                                                    

A plague spreading throughout my house

           Crawling in through my ears and throat

Screaming what I know is true

           But screw my teeth against

                                   The fatty lump I can not swallow

Then I claw at my ears and at my throat

As if my whole arms were talons

           As if my whole body were a talon

And now the Gods have given the sign

                                               It is finally happening

I am turning into

           One giant wound

                       Pure wound

                                   Nothing but wound

           Wound flowering in the desert

A conduit for all the world's blood

To rage through

And spill into a sea of blood

I watch now as Clytemnestra                     driven mad

           By the drums of fury beating in her brain

           The jars of pain poured over her head

Dissects me like a blade

                       In my own bathtub

Butchers me like a haunch of ox


She is turning me into my own daughter                                                      

                       Such lust gaping her pupils

                       Such joy at the fresh flowers

I watch and rejoice at last as the Moirai

Bend to their work

           Mechanical beauties

Revolve the constellations of blood

Just one cog further

And the Eumenides gathering in the wings

Stefan Ferguson

Stefan Ferguson was born in Scotland to a family of British, French and Italian descent. After a childhood spent in Britain (mostly) and France (partly), he moved to Germany, where he has lived for 27 years, spending the last 17 of those teaching English and French at a grammar school near Lake Constance. His passions are: his family; myths; obscure etymologies.

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