Poet: Chris Dickerson

 

Siren's Lament

Siren's Lament
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Siren's Lament

In time the bird-women, the Sirens with their irresistible songs, were heard
less frequently. The sea gradually washed the shore clean of sailors'
corpses; fewer and fewer brave mariners were drawn by desire
to these deadly reefs. Whether they cared less to hear their fates
or the Sirens found fewer prophecies of interest, the coast was quiet.

My Sisters, know all that I've hoarded
and all my envy swim with me tonight
in this jade light, the moon a golden spur
rolling down the grid of the world.

I too struggle with these skins, encrusted
shrouds that bind our wings and hands alike.
What use are feathers to a serpent, scales to a bird?
Even the sandworms laugh.

Still, there's something to be said for vision.
Now we are nothing, our great mouths silent,
we've gained a clarity obscured so long as heroes
like Odysseus lusted for our songs.

Finally we know: those words meant nothing.
Men broken on our rocks, their flesh our feast,
were no more foolish than ourselves. We too imagined
that both words and flesh were worth our lives.

Thus as we ate their flesh and dreamed our power,
we conjured a new form that cut us off from men
and gods-and even worse, ourselves. Sisters,
we traded wings for voices tuned to desire.

 

 

© Chris Dickerson
All rights reserved

 

 



Now we know what we could not admit.
It's not that truth withholds itself; it leaves
its marks as clear upon our hearts
as these bronze scales upon our surfaces.

We could have veered away as easily as could
our mariners-could have salvaged plumage bright
enough for pleasure and for need, and beaks
shaped for the fisher's heady dive and fight.

Instead, we writhe like snakes on land
and plow like oxen in the gray-green sea.
Our beaks are dulled from picking through the bones
and our great spirits poisoned with our own flesh.

Sisters, the world's an endless chain of shifts
and counter-shifts, a slippery landscape we might dream
a logic for. It still remains to find that place, dark and serene,
where we might tear ourselves new nakedness.

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