Tag Archives: Sirens

Don’t Kill the Siren: sapphics

Now whose voice is singing out words of warning,
as the low light, glittering, slowly fading,
starts to flicker tenuously, letting darkness
silently swallow

other points now wavering on the shoreline?
When those bridges crumble for their reasons,
will they turn the oceanside’s brightness inward,
quietly shifting

all their burning energy from their borders,
glowing in the after hurt, slowly dying,
letting outside travelers lose their bearings,
careening wildly

on the rocks that litter the lightless beaches?
Are new voices learning the ancient lyrics?
What will guide the innocent ships to harbor
without that howling?

18 MAY 2017

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The Lesson of the Sirens

I cannot hear the sirens’ song.
My ears have been clogged for too long
with endless drivel, mindless stuff;
but I can see them well enough.
Their mouths are moving, and it’s tough
to lip read, but I still can do it:
“He’s not listening, so screw it!

Why are we wasting our time
on fools like this? We are divine
in purpose, and this role demeans
the stature of all other queens.”
They loose their talons from the rocks,
and slip them into shoes and socks;
then swim off to the nearest shore
to charm the devil from some poor

demented poet, who is cursed
to think he’s what they claim, their first.
He buys them drinks, ten bucks a round,
and doesn’t notice when the sound
of their sweet voices starts to fade;
and at the jukebox, I hear played
some song of love’s last promise made.

When he next looks, the girls are gone,
and in their place sits Xenophon,
who tells him, “They have gone stone mute;
they cannot speak save in pursuit.
You’ve made their game too simple, son,
and so their purpose is undone;

They’ve gone back to Odysseus,
who’s laughing now, at all of us.
There is no song without an ear;
now, pony up. I need a beer.”

And so the sirens have returned,
their course adjusted, lessons learned.
They’ll sit and sing, while I transcribe.
The worth of which, you must decide.

12 APR 2004

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Songs for the Deaf

Heart strings be stilled, and bring on the noise
that dulls into senseless, hard men hopeful boys;
Just pound on the floor, if you must have a beat,
and perhaps you’ll vibrate the tips of your feet.

We must find other, quiet joys
To fill up the void where the Music once played,
for our audience fidgets and acts quite dismayed
if we take up their space with a moment in time
of anything that might be unique, or sublime,
suggesting the beauty arrayed
In a brief pause of breath, when the talking has ceased,
and like seeds from a flower, our thoughts are released
in the atmosphere, freed from these cages of sound
that we build to protect us from life, all around
(it seems like that to me, at least)
Yet praise of the average demeans genius in man;
we crave mediocre sounds, all we can stand
are the songs that we know, ones we all know by rote
so that even the tone-deaf can find all the notes,
and our Music sounds hollow and canned.
What good is it to sing out from deep in your soul,
if the listener’s ears are beyond your control?

If you must shake the walls, and the floors, and the chair,
soon there will be only a harsh rhythm there,
while the soft melodies that roll
Gently off the tongue, on the faintest of sighs
will be carried off; and then, we’ll all act surprised
when our lives have no meaning, and seem flat and dull,
empty of beauty, and no longer full
of anything apathy has not compromised.

21 FEB 2003

I seem to be fascinated, as of late, by the myth of Odysseus, particularly with his interaction (or adamant lack thereof) with the Sirens. In the book The Third Ear: On Listening to the World, one of the ideas put forward is that the Sirens, having no audience for their song, simply gave up singing (and since their singing was their purpose, they then retreated under their rocks and died). This is advanced as the plight of those who would appeal to the ear, a much more honest organ of interpretation than the eye. In our vision-based culture, where we seek to penetrate outward into the world, rather than listen, and bring the world into us, the hypertrophy of the sense of hearing in favor of seeing causes all sorts of maladjustments and (to use a vision-based word) misperceptions.

“I see,” said the blind;
“I hear,” said the deaf;
“You’re a liar,” said the dumb
— punchline from a joke my grandmother used to tell

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The Siren’s Song

Like Odysseus, our great commander in chief
(who likes his reports and his facts just in brief)
has ordered himself lashed and tied to the mast,
and in the ears of his councilors, wax plugs made fast

so he can go forth and destroy his named foe
without hearing anti-war Sirens scream “no!”
(at least, though he’ll hear them, he will not be swayed,
for his eyes are trained on fortunes to be made)

And the millions of Sirens, deprived thus of voice
will be faced with a terrible, depressing choice:
to admit defeat, and crawl under their stones,
or watch as the war machine destroys their homes.

For me, though I know that my song goes unheard
by those who hang on our brave leader’s each word,
and often gets noticed as “bleeding heart” stuff
(which can make those brown-shirt boys act pretty rough)

I shall sing it out loudly and hope that out there
are enough others who do not say “laissez faire”
but seek for the truth without question or pause
and only want war for a more noble cause

And as for Odysseus, let him go lame
There strapped to the mast in his imbecile game
I did not elect him my hero in chief
Nor do I think his acts reflect my belief

In a nation’s nobility, part of the whole
where although a great people, we do not control
the fate of the planet with missiles and threat,
but work hard for world peace, and do not forget

that absolute power corrupts absolute
and turns politicians into lying suits
that make long careers out of power and greed,
but should be but servants, who seek what we need.

Odysseus, hero? This Siren thinks not,
and sings to avert him and his evil plot;
And though he ain’t listenin’, perhaps someone will
and sink his foul ship before he does more ill.

I’m not saying kill him, or any such dreck,
nor sabotage his machine, causing a wreck;
Just sing, all you Sirens, as loud as you can
until perhaps we can stun sense in the man.

18 FEB 2003

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I had spent more than a thousand rough hours,
distaining the coward’s wax in my ears;
instead, forcing myself as each note soured
to find some beauty in each sound that neared –

even the ravening gluttonous song
of the apathetic devouring fog,
that slow, rends the flesh and bone of the strong
to a tasteless gruel not fit for a dog;

and lashed to the mast, saw a Siren’s face,
denied its audience, wither and fade,
its tentacles exposed above the sea.
After a moment, I thought to replace

the now dead air with a song I had made;
but had no Music left inside of me.

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