. . . in Love and War

after Sappho

Some say the thing of greatest worth
Upon the black face of the earth
Is a mighty troop of horse
Or foot, or ships in force.

I say it’s none of the above:
I say it is the one you love.
But this is obvious to all
Who have been in thrall.

Take Helen—loveliest disaster—
Jilted her fine lord and master
And sailed to Troy across the water,
No thought for parents, daughter,

Once Aphrodite lit the fire
And enlisted her desire.
So Anaktoria, far away,
Haunts my thoughts today:

Her graceful stride and shining face
I set in a higher place
Than infantry in ranks and ranks
And all the armored tanks.

1999 © A. E. Stallings