David Thompson

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To Put His Rage Aside

I couldn’t fucking believe it at first,
but right there in front of my eyes
stood Priam, majestic old man King
of the Trojans right here in Achilles’ tent.
Holy shit. How the hell did that happen?

I guess I probably should have been
paying closer attention, but it’s been boring
as hell around here since we had the funeral
for Patroclus, and I’ve mostly just watched
Achilles moping around and crying.
And then when he’s had enough of that,
he hooks Hector’s body up to his chariot
and drags it around for a while, just for kicks.
Funny thing is, nothing happens to
Hector’s body, no matter what. No kidding.
No cuts, No bruises, no nothing. You know
the gods got to be fucking around with us
on this. I suspect it’s that goddamn Apollo,
he hates us Greeks, always has.

Any-hoo, I was just sitting here in Achilles’ tent
keeping an eye on him so he doesn’t do
anything really stupid, like suicide or something.
When I look up from the months old Sports Illustrated
I’ve been reading for the 100th time, and what do I see,
but fucking King Priam himself, the big Trojan kahuna,
standing right here just a few feet from the fleet footed one.
Before any of us could react, Priam’s on his knees
hugging Achilles, begging for him to return Hector’s body.
He’s sobbing like crazy which is weird for a dude his age
who’s got like 60 other kids, but he tells Achilles to think
of his own dad, good ol’ Peleus, and the next thing you know,
Achilles is crying, too. It’s all too fucking weird.

Achilles patted Priam on the head and ordered
some of the serving women to bring in the ransom
from Priam’s wagon. It’s some good stuff, too -
plenty of gold and gorgeous fucking robes
and blankets – then he had them deliver
Hector’s body all oiled up and wrapped
in our thickest, softest cloth. So, Achilles
and Priam, like their best buds now or something,
hug goodbye, and damned if Achilles didn’t promise
not to attack until the Trojans were done mourning
their favorite son. As the wagon moved away, I recognized
that tricky devil Hermes was driving which explained
how Priam snuck through our lines in the first place.
I put my arm around Achilles, told him he’d done a good thing
to put his rage aside. He just said we’d all better get some rest
because there’d be more tough fighting real soon, a lot more dying
still to come. As we watched the wagon disappear across the plain
toward Troy, I realized I kind of envied our old nemesis Hector
even if he was dead; at least he was at peace and on his way home.

The 13th Disciple

You won’t read anything about him
in the Bible, but Jesus had a 13th disciple.
His name was Benny; he wasn’t religious
at all, just best friends with Jesus
from way back – altar boys,
Little League and Cub Scouts.
Through high school people say
they were inseparable, always
in the same Shop classes together
or playing Church League basketball,
then leading Nazereth Central High
to the league title with Jesus on the mound
and Benny behind the plate. Prom night,
they double dated with the Cohen twins;
high-fived each other for the first time
as real men standing next to the waffle iron
in the breakfast room at the Red Roof Inn
the next morning.

After graduation when most guys went
to work as fishermen or carpenters,
Benny just sort of stayed home
with his mom, hung out at Jesus’ house
at night playing guitars and trying
to write songs together. They dreamed
of starting a band, but Mary kept yelling
from upstairs to hold the goddamn noise down;
Joseph was trying to get to sleep, so they abandoned
their rock n’ roll dream and started binge watching
cable series like The Wire and Breaking Bad
until they knew all the lines by heart.

Years later, Benny just naturally tagged along
when Jesus started going around preaching,
healing lepers, turning water into wine,
and assembling his disciples. He wasn’t there
for the message, always made sure to skip
the baptism events or the long sermons, but
when the wine was flowing and the girls came
backstage after the show, Benny was always around.
Sure, the other disciples griped about him to Jesus,
and he only said, Yeah, I know Benny can be an asshole,
but I like having him around and he’s the only one
of you losers who can beat me at ping-pong anyway.

You won’t see Benny in any of the photos
from The Last Supper or the crucifixion
because they say Jesus warned him real clear
about all the bad shit about to go down, gave him
a wad of cash to get the hell out of Dodge.
Nobody knows for sure where Benny ended up.
Some say the Romans nabbed his ass at the bus station
and he got eaten by lions in the coliseum up in Rome.
Others claim he escaped to east Africa to run guns,
while others swear Benny became a reclusive novelist
in a small town in New Hampshire. And then,
there’s always the rumor that he went back
to his mom’s, still eats lunch at the Burger King
out on Jerusalem Road every Thursday noon.
Only thing we know for sure is you could fill
a whole goddamn book with all the crazy shit
the Bible doesn’t tell you.


David J. Thompson is a former prep schoolteacher and coach. He grew up in Hyde Park, New York, and now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His interests include The Simpsons, jazz, and minor league baseball. His latest chapbook, Shake My Ashes, is available from Alien Buddha Press. A series of 1400 of his postcards is part of the permanent collection of The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. Please visit his photography website at ninemilephoto.com.