It was to the ocean’s edge that Achilles ran.
Sweat dripped from his brow, and from his eyes
Ran rivers, their streams unwavering.
Upon hearing the cries of her dear child,
Thetis appeared, her gentle voice asking,
“What ails you, my son?”
Through his sobs, he replied,
“It is Patroclus, my dearest companion.
Twelve days have passed since he descended
To the kingdom of Hades, so far below us.
It seems so long ago, yet I still yearn
To rip Trojans apart with my bare hands,
To tear them to pieces as they have done to my heart
And mind and soul. I am tormented day and night,
For even the blood of a thousand Trojans
Could not equate the death of Patroclus.
Mother, what will quell this searing fire,
This rage that consumes my very being?”
Thetis’ gaze drifted from her son,
And rested now upon the ocean. It was
Nostalgia which prompted her to speak once more.
“There was a time when I was young like you,
When my face, once radiant, wore a smile,
And my steps held a certain vitality.
It was as a budding flower that I first
Encountered him—Odius, the son of Atlas.
He looked as though he too could bear the weight
Of the world upon his broad shoulders.
As I searched for creatures on land, and he
Looked out to sea, our wandering eyes met.
We basked in the symmetry of our feelings,
And over time the initial carnal desire
Honeyed over, becoming sweet adoration.”
A sigh escaped the goddess’ lips, a frown
Painting its way across her face as she began
Once more, “Zeus, the almighty ruler of Olympus,
Was the one who brought our love to an end.
Parting the clouds, he surveyed the land
Until he caught a glimpse of the Nereids.
The daughters of the sea floated with the waves,
Glimmering as the sun reflected off
Their glassy abode. They played, their melodic
Laughter like strings of a harp, all the while
Unsuspecting of the voyeur above.
Although the other Nereids were more desirable than I
Like Halie who had eyes like the stars,
Maera who spoke with the song bird’s voice,
Galene so powerful with her oxen strength—
It was I who Zeus wanted so desperately,
His eyes finding no pleasure in any
Of the other girls, at least for the moment.
Burning with passion, he confronted
My love Odius, giving him an order.
‘You shall cease to see Thetis, or you will perish.’
“How such a simple order can bring such sorrow!
Odius, now instilled with fear, stayed away.
For many days I was torn between fending off
The advances of Zeus, and waiting for
My love to return. With Odius gone
I could not play in the sun as I once had;
Such blissful times seemed meaningless now.
My home was no longer in the depths of the sea,
But where the water met the land, a place
Of strange, everlasting limbo. There I sat,
Two moons passing as I waited. I would have
Faded away in my sadness, had I not
Awaken to the sounds of my beloved.
‘Thetis,’ Odius called, running towards the water,
Sweat dripping from every pore, ‘A life without you,
Is not one that is worth living.’ Odious, so rash,
Believed he could outrun Zeus. But from Olympus,
Zeus witnessed this bold defiance of his command,
And hurled his lightning bolt at the young man.
The heat engulfed Odious, his flesh and bones
All subjected to the whim of Zeus.
How he played with him for those brief moments,
The lightning bolt’s glow brilliant at first,
Then all at once—pain.
With the disappearance of the light came
The realization of my beloved’s new form.
His body was fragmented, broken to pieces.
All that remained of him were small loose grains,
So dry and coarse. The wind spread his remains
Across the place where the land met the sea,
The sand finally connecting the two worlds.
“For some time thereafter I hated Zeus,
But my anger was futile, for who
Can harm the king of all gods? Achilles,
The Fates often work in mysterious ways.
Had Odius not been lost, I would have never
Borne a son whose glory and honour rivals that
Of heroes like Perseus and Heracles.
Relinquish your hate before it devours you,
Before it buries itself so deep in your heart
That you cannot remove it. Like a seed
It will fester, and over time sprout vines
Which will wrap around you, suffocate you,
And pierce you with their thorns. Think not of the way
That Patroclus died, but of the way he lived.”
Achilles sat adamantine for some time,
As though still processing his mother’s tale.
Then he spoke, his speech soft and light as feathers,
As though he thought his words might cause harm.
“Mother, you speak of times before my birth,
Even before your marriage to Peleus.
If Odius is a lifetime away,
Why do you guard your memories of him?”
The goddess smiled and replied, “Because I love him.
And when you are gone Achilles, when your body
Becomes nothing more than soil, and your spirit
Takes its place in Hades, another lifetime may go by—
But I will always love and remember you.”
Thetis took Achilles in her arms, the way
Only a mother could, her warm embrace
Enveloping the colossal man. With that,
Achilles took his leave, his eyes now dry
And his mind crowded with new thoughts, like ripples
Across the once still water.