Andy Hoffman

Two Women

Two women sit on a terrace open to the sea
and wait for the soldiers below, fighting now
ten years, to win or lose. The women see
the scars and grime, brine and blood
bear shoulders to the war. They scour
men's torn faces for features they know.

"They'll be here soon," Cassandra speaks,
turning from the railing. She recognizes
all the soldiers, from visions. She bargains,
"Perhaps it won't be so bad for me.
You needn't worry, Helen. I prophesize
nothing for you. Nothing to believe in."

Helen tries a smile. Half the sky catches fire.
Below the battle clamors. Men bleed more.
She slowly unsmiles. "It's been this way for
ever, you know. I don't think any captor
cared to know me. Even my father.
I don't think he care beyond the rapture

he felt possessing the most beautiful woman."
"He didn't," says Cassandra. She smiles at the thought:
she spoke a truth, but not a gloomy prediction,
and garnered belief. She almost crows,
"You forget, Helen. I know things." Helen caught
Cassandra's smile. The sky burned. "Yes. You know."

The two women took in the sea. One saw
a hero's trials, and the other saw her own.
The sea will carry the first away, wrists raw
with chains, to more family wars.
The other carries the sea within her, alone
amidst her devotees, drawn, like sailors, on.

A crash at the gate and Helen starts, stares, cries.
Her tears drop and darken the sky with wine clouds.
Cassandra wonders if she can even learn to lie.
There are heroes – clanging, dripping blood – in a row
on the stairs, by the door. "They come in crowds,
don't they?" Cassandra asks. Helen has no answer.