for Elise Matthesen
Here to this island of flowers and bones,
not many come
but my song draws them
like the riptide a drowning sailor
or the noose a broken heart.
The great ships founder, break their treasure at my feet—
oxhides of copper, black–figured wine–bowls,
amphorae smashed hollow as the chests of their crew.
The fishermen’s nets
drift slack–jawed in the tide,
the wind strings a lyre of their empty throats.
Soldiers have left their shields and greaves,
poets their salt–dried laurels
and all their long bones to the sun.
I tell lies to no one.
I pledge what I give.
The truth is the breaker of men.
But come of your own soul’s singing,
beyond the shoals’ wreck and stagger
and the billows of asphodel,
with your grief–hacked hair
and the ashes you loved in your arms
and I will give you the choice of heroes
who must outlive the war:
on the dark earth and beneath it,
my art is memory.
Demeter’s daughter passed this pomegranate to me,
Syrinx’s mother entrusted me with these pipes.
Take the fruit from my hand
and I will grant you its wet red forgetfulness,
the sleep of a seed in the rind of the unasking earth.
Take the song from my mouth,
take the stormwind from within you,
and I will tell the truth with you.
(Editors’ Note: Amal El–Mohtar reads “Σειρήνοιϊν” in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 5B. Sonya Taaffe also writes about her poem here.)
© 2015 by Sonya Taaffe