I, Helen – Parts 1 and 2
Part 3 of the Trojan Chronicles: Helen muses on her youth and then looks back at her life
I, Helen – Part 1
I grew up on the edge of the Olympic Estate,
half-way up the hill on Albion Terrace,
our house looking down towards the marina
and beyond to the new power station balanced
on the grand old river’s farther edge,
a graceful silhouette of chimneyed towers,
to which every morning my father crossed.
I dreamt of wanting to be fully me,
but when pushed I’d say “a fashion designer,”
clothing the likes of Aphro the influencer and her ilk,
until one day a beauty pageant rep came by,
said I had a singular face, should appear on his prime time show,
the Spartan hit, “Can You Launch A Thousand Ships?”
Menelaus was sat among the judges, a man of power,
behind I saw the raw faces of the rank and rancorous,
their greed for fresh flesh exposed unquenched,
and knew I would need a shield against the world;
I selected him as my first,
signing a deal with his agency, “The Brand”.
He set me up in a penthouse flat on Finchley Road,
hooked me up with contracts across the globe,
showcase collections from designers who were in vogue,
flew me in First to New York, Rio, Milan, Hong Kong,
but Paris, he said, was out of bounds,
the city a cess pit, dissolute and degenerate,
no place for an innocent waif like me,
but forbidden it called, in my dreams it rooted,
rampant every day breaking my thoughts,
building luxuriant, fecund with the new
creations seemingly sprung from celestial hands,
until I fell, tantalised,
completely consumed by its promised splendour,
the compass pointing to the realms of the elite.
I, Helen – Part 2
Am neither goddess, nor a queen, nor whore;
Do not bury me beneath your sinful stones; I am much more,
A woman, mother, daughter, my poetry makes me,
I AM ME.
The world, though, unsettled by my form,
has remoulded me, and I, now, stand torn,
bearing the scars of its apartheid lusts,
the multi-cubed insecurities of its cliques,
their unscrupulous desires to see me stripped
of all that marks me as me unique.
I was sexless in my mother’s womb,
without hue until that beauty judgement ended
and I appeared prized on every billboard –
“The FACE that could launch a thousand ships” –
across the shores of the Aegean Sea,
re-dressed by men, their marks, as a kalon kakon,
and in that instant transformed into a blight,
never to be an equal, to be
compared with their own peerless kalokagathia.
Let me tell you, I am my own;
the men who cast themselves at my feet,
their extravagant xenia, their threats of love,
those that paint me with the strokes of their own dark core,
Those that sermonise while masturbating,
They do not know me,
Let them be, let them cast their flies;
I am Helen,
Who has been,
And always will be herself.
You imaginative parodies (May I call them that?) are brilliant, and the inclusion of Greek is both a binding element and a prompt. I have enjoyed reading. MORE!
Allen, there is one more in this series of the Trojan Chronicles, “In the Shade of Achilles’ Shield, and I may add other perspectives later. Glad that you are enjoying this little diversion of mine;
A timeless character who longs to break a couple thousand years of type-casting, a little like Marylyn Monroe, who longed to be taken seriously as an actress. Many great lines: ” Let them caste their flies; …sermonize while masturbating; Do not bury me beneath your sinful stones.” Kind of imagine Helen being more voluptuous than a waif though.
Good to have you back. Some liberties have to be taken, CW, and I wanted to have a contrast between the first part, set in London with a girl just setting out on a modelling career, and then the mature and measured dissection of a life in Greece and Troy..
are you familiar with Batrachomyomachia? I remember some lines the book had this poem too so it could be at least inspired by this parody, in Hades – I think – the character (Menippos) was shown who was Helen and just said “that skull was Helen?” that’s a hasty translation probably inaccurate since my memory is vague. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batrachomyomachia I think it is something written by Lukianos.. hmm so some other lines these bones you disrespectfully talk about have been extolled by poets and later Hermes says to Menippos I don’t have time to philosophize with you, I have more dead… Read more »
IYP, I was not familiar with that particular parody and have just had a summary glance at it. This particular series of poems are adaptations, contemporising and using anachronisms so we can see how little human nature has changed in the last 5000 years. We have the internet and everything is digitised, but what does that do for humanity? Does it allow us to be better beings, to treat each other with more respect? We’re still the same with access to data and information at our fingertips, but that does not mean that we know how to use it. The… Read more »
I did something similar years ago, just to give you some titles “modern Endymion” “modern Aglaya” and other ‘modern’ versions of characters from mythology and literature
the same dramas as you say yes and the same realization it seems that takes place again again, our realizations are part of these dramas, we are part of it and this is frightening how connected we are with the realization of the same dramas.
Why? what’s the purpose…
IYP, I can’t comment on anyone else’s purpose, but mine is to write, to innovate and to open into the consciousness of the universe – just joking; I just want to be able to express all that is inside my head.
No I mean something collective. I’d like to send you the next part of Asiram’s story maybe this will make things clear for you to understand well enough why I said we are all connected with the same dramas and wonder what is the purpose.
I’m enjoying this sequence even more. And does ‘our’ Helen stand for all the subjects of the male gaze? But she is the eternal woman – or so it seems to me; not reducible to a commodity. And I liked Paris being out of bounds, but will she choose to go there anyway?
Very good questions, Dougie, and I leave it to the reader as to whether she takes the plunge; she is being seduced by the idea of making into the elite world of the super models, and when you think about it Helen was model zero.