Poetry Night – I Think I’m Achilles

So…I’m allergic to alcohol.

This comes as not an entirely unseen or unwelcome surprise. I’ve never really reacted to the jolly stuff terribly well, and I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences, both physical and mental, with drink and those who drink. Having a medical reason, I’m finding, makes not-drinking a hell of a lot easier however, as most people seem to immediately worry when you tell them you’re not drinking, worrying that you won’t be ‘any fun’ or that you’ll stop their fun. I’m not about to stop anyone having fun. I’ll just have a slimline-tonic-and-lime-ice-and-a-slice if you’re going to the bar.

This poem comes from thinking about not drinking, and those who don’t drink for whatever reason, and the reasons why alcohol is bad for you, and other people’s possible reaction to it.

And The Iliad.

Watch it on YouTube (but please ignore how awful I look…)

I Think I’m Achilles

by Laura Jenkinson

A girl and a boy

Met on a blind date.

They sat at the table

And nervously ate

Bread and olives and oil

While they made their selection:

He chose salmon en croute;

She chose cow dissection.

He made several jokes,

She laughed mostly politely.

He fell over his words,

She smiled at him brightly.

The boy ordered wine –

The girl didn’t drink it.

“Alcoholic?” he blurted.

She blushed: “Don’t you think it!

I just have my reasons

I’m sure you’ll respect them.”

He said, “Come on now,

We are in the p.m.”

At her second refusal,

And her third and her fourth,

He enticed her to tell him,

Her tale to hold forth.

She sighed and she grimaced.

She’d done this before.

There was a slim chance that

He’d run for the door.

But something about him

Made her relax,

His wide-seeing gaze

Or his grey eyes perhaps,

He seemed to bring calm,

Bring her jitters black death,

And so she relented

And took a deep breath.

The answer she gave him

Was not as predicted:

Some student drinking,

Ruinously depicted?

“I think I’m Achilles.”

She stated as fact.

“Now I’ll have a tonic

And let’s leave it at that.”

The boy took her in:

Her soft, golden hair

Fell over her eyes

Where a hungering stare

Made him catch at his breath.

“Um, repeat that please?”

His smile could have felled her

Right down to Hades.

She repeated her line

And was straight-faced once more:

“I think I’m Achilles

From the Trojan War.”

“You think you’re Achilles?”

He sounded quite flat.

He sipped at his wine.

“Now why would you think that?”

She licked her dry lips:

An intriguing reaction.

She had to admit now

A teensy attraction.

His interest was better

Than instant dismissal,

Yet her words would be harder

To chew on than gristle.

Still she was heartened

And far less chagrined.

She threw caution

To the four winds.

“I think I’m Achilles

As when I’m upset

I’m filled with his anger

As just when he wept

At the theft of his glory

On the Trojan shore.

It raged in his breast

And he fought Troy no more.

The wrath of Zeus helped him.

His enemies perished,

But not before losing

The one man he cherished.

Do you see where I’m going?”

She paused in her telling.

The daze on his face

Was curiously compelling.

He nodded and sipped,

Cocked his head to one side,

She resumed explaining

Her horrendous aside:

“I think I’m Achilles,

The wrath of Achaea,

And alcohol for me is

My dark aristeia:

The boozy night out is

An arming formula:

The rum in the tumbler

A divine inspirer;

The gin and vermouth

Is a fine set of greaves;

The whiskey and water

Gird me round to the knees

In a corselet, of bronze

And enamel made;

The beer and the lager are

My scabbard and blade;

The vodka and soda

My shield, shoulder-tall –

But one drink that always

Will vanquish them all

Is the wine in my glass

Which goes straight to my head,

Like a helmet of boars-tusk

That protects the spread

Of the poison throughout

Til the fury’s begun

With my spear, which is sharp as

My fists and my tongue.”

She pursed her lips

And looked down at the floor.

He sensed that she wanted

To reveal something more.

“I think I’m Achilles

And to keep him inside

I take these little white pills,”

She cried.

The boy looked on

As she finished explaining,

Dabbed her eyes with a tissue,

Quivering lips straining

Into a wry smile

As she waited to hear what

He thought of her now

That she’d emptied her secret.

The boy put his glass down –

And reached for her hand.

Leaning in closer,

He said something unplanned:

“You didn’t ask what I do,

And I’m a psychiatrist.

You’re suffering something

And you I can assist.

I think you’re depressed.

If you know it or not,

Your problem is common,

Your interpretation fraught.

A Greek Myth is classic

Disassociation.

It helps you to explain

Your sad situation.

But Classical references

Are an attractive feature

(And your metaphor helps me

To tell you’re a teacher.)

Though your imagery’s dramatic,

You can tell I’m non-plussed.

If you become Achilles,

I’ll be your Patroclus.”

And with that he kissed her

And called out an order,

That met with the needs of

Her anxiety disorder:

“Two G and T’s please

With no G, just extra lime.”

And I’m pleased to say

They had a great time.

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