Weekly Poem: ‘Achilles’

BY Jason M. Breslow  March 22, 2010 at 12:30 PM EST

By Carol Ann Duffy

Achilles

— for David Beckham

Myth’s river — where his mother
dipped him, fished him, a
slippery golden boy flowed on,
his name on its lips.

Without him, it was prophesied,
they would not take Troy.

Women hid him, concealed him
in girls’ sarongs; days of
sweetmeats, spices, silver songs…

But when Odysseus came, with an
athlete’s build, a sword and a shield,
he followed him to the battlefield,
the crowd’s roar,

And it was sport, not war,
his charmed foot on the ball…

But then his heel, his heel, his heel…
 

Carol Ann DuffyBritish Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy wrote “Achilles” after English soccer player David Beckham suffered a season-ending injury last week. Beckham, 34, was headed for what would have likely been his last World Cup this summer before tearing his Achilles’ tendon during a match on March 14.

“He is almost a mythical figure himself, in popular culture,” Duffy told BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World At One’. “It’s fascinating that the injury takes its name from Achilles…The whole point of Greek myths is the combination of triumph and tragedy that we follow in them.”

Scottish-born Duffy was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in 2009, becoming both the first woman and the first openly lesbian poet to hold the position in its more than 300 year history.

The audio recording above is courtesy of the BBC. Duffy also writes a regular column, “Poetry Corner,” for the Daily Mirror.