Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NPM: "Siren Song"

Here's another favorite poem I first discovered in college. I enjoy hearing familiar stories from the perspective of the bad guy (everything from upside-down fairy tales to The Screwtape Letters), and this poem fits into that category. The three sirens are described by Homer in The Odyssey as half-women, half-birds who live on an island where they sing enchantingly in order to lure sailors to their death.

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can't remember.

Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?

I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical

with these two feathery maniacs,
I don't enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

~ Margaret Atwood (1939-)


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