Kleos, Aidos, Nostos, & Penthos

Fran Tirado


Patroclus met Achilles in modern dance class
in ill-fitted sweatpants, their forespoken oracles
plaguing the plausibilities, the woulda-couldas,
& their sickening thoughts left the subjunctive,
refracted on mirrors like light. 


Quicker than anything, he was blowing him in a
blue minivan parked in an arboretum, Patroclus’s
brow sweating into Achilles’s pubes, breathing
heavy through the crevices of their war helmets,
the sweet crotch smell of fifty ships.

                                                                          & later,
with Ach’s sword in Pat’s hands, he could feel his
heartbeat, felt for the first time like he could fight
or conquer anything, seize the country he once
thought sinking like a body on taut sheets. 


Then it was the tenderness of text messages, &
the way they sometimes held hands at parties &
other times avoided eye contact in the King’s Hall.


Skip ahead 7 books. 29 little fights, 1 big. 5 pic- 
nics, 40 bottles of sauvignon blanc, 24 friends
introduced, & 28 nice salads. 11 angry gods, 13
storms, 2 suits of armor, 2 semesters, 1 road trip,
1 broken mast, 4 books borrowed, 3 irreparable
wounds. 66 cups of coffee, 76 staggering breaths
& 9 times someone came & made a dishonest
sound, crooned a name that was losing its arête,
its visceral newness.


They went to Achilles’s house for dinner & his
mother brooded like a chicken stock. The appetiz-
ers were wrapped in pancetta but Patroclus didn’t
eat meat. With pangs in their lower intestines, our
heroes survived with a few glasses of wine, but
Mother knew (too cruel) that things would work
out her way, that Zeus owed her a favor.


Patroclus left for school & so began the longer
distance, the late-night placid phone chats & hur-
ried lovemakings made in bathrooms & backseats
& maybe too hard & Ach smacked Pat’s ass &
called him a Faggot & laughed about it later & Pat
laughed too.

                                                       The pit feeling
in Patroclus’s stomach when he looked in the
morning mirror & no longer knew his own tired
mouth, saw himself the warrior he never wanted
to be. His eyes watered as he picked the dried
blood from the soft hair under there.


The Chorus would have said to our heroes here,
Ware Your Loved Ones. A broken bird can’t help
another broken bird, or something, & it would be
sung like a Mills Brothers song but it wasn’t, they
had no Chorus.


Achilles called with a tone like a hot tendon. Said
that One Thing. 
                                                                       You what.
I didn’t mean to carve the marble this way or hurt
you hard & I should treat you like the art you are
& I’m sorry (I guess) about the wagon I’ve hitched
to your planet.
Please. This, I can fix. I can break this 
mistake, you will & I will.
                                                                              I will 
                                                              call you later.


It Never Hurt To Try was a lie your teacher told
you because they never thought you’d be sitting in
this car, with Achilles beating the steering wheel
& screaming beyond recognition & he’s asking
Why & the car swerves some & the lights flicker
like in apocalyptic movies & you realize for years
now you have been “trying,” trying to cut things
out with an X-acto knife, & so you pick up your
scraps, you put on his armor & you take his face in
your hands like a porcelain plate. He pulls over &
you charge the gate & open the car door & you are
not heading north & the horns are ringing & the
gods are singing & this will be the song he keeps
until the next song.


No dead body could be dragged through the sand
long enough to contest ten thousand pains. No
glory can gild the clotted wounds, the blood of the
seas between.
                                                 Go on, bury the thing.


Fran Tirado is the associate editor at Hello Mr. and also works as a freelance homodocumentarian living in Brooklyn-ish. The stories he tells center on transient communities, underdogs, and unlikely heroes. This is his first publication in a literary journal. You can follow his writing on ImFran.com or his adventures on Instagram @fransquishco.