June 5, 2023

helen of troy on the affair (vii)

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Maria Zoccola

       Musée National Gustave Moreau: Helen at the Scaean Gate, Gustave Moreau


on the night i knew was our last, we sat down to a feast
in the smoking section of the perkins beside the city walls,
which differed from the perkins in my town only in the number
of dead men who ate there. the air con was running pretty good,
stiffing up the hair on my shins and souping the windows
thick enough to hide what the sky was doing outside,
a mean mess of clouds tinting themselves yellow and gray
and yellow again, galloping above a world pre-flinched
for its next bruising. he lit a cigarette and passed it to me,
which was a new thing i was doing, another small light
flashing frenetically in the background. i was so hungry
in my body. i wanted more than the glut on the laminated menu,
identical in every offering to the one at the perkins back home,
the same meals exhumed from a walk-in’s dark freeze.
columns of smoke rose from every table. the booth heaved
with plates of grease and blood. when the hail began
at last to hurl itself downward, it struck against
the wood paneling with a hollow call i felt in my belly,
a pounding that signaled the end of what we were eating,
whatever it was we were putting in our mouths.

Maria Zoccola is author of Helen of Troy, forthcoming from Scribner in 2025. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, and ZYZZYVA.
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