Sirens by David R. Slavitt
There were three of them, or, some authors say, two,
with bodies either of women or feathered birds
with women’s heads, or sometimes potters had them
with bearded faces. One of the versions supposes
that if their fatally beautiful singing failed--
as of course it did when Odysseus passed by, bound
as he was to the mast, with the oarsmen’s ears all stopped
with beeswax to make them immune—the sirens would perish.
A hard rule, but what else can happen to magic
after it has been reduced to a mere
performance in recital and concert halls?
“Breathtaking,” we say, but still we can breathe.
So the artists should die? But, then, alas, they will,
every one of them, however gifted. They try,
(practice, practice) and come close to divine
perfection, but we applaud and then go home.
For writers, it’s less dramatic but we, too, try
our best, and although we do not admit it, dream
that the words will live on, that our hold on somone’s attention
here or there, may continue at random, blips
frequent enough to become a steady low tone,
not quite the song the sirens sang, but close.
© 2005-2008 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas