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Cover Library Poetry A Hot January

Sirens and other poems

Duane Locke
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink MapThe Moselle valley (France, Germany, Luxembourg)
Sea girls with whole human bodies,
Mermaids, human bodies above,
Fish bodies below, sing songs
That interrupt commerce,
Stop ships with cargoes,
Sing songs that excite sailors
To seek happiness
Rather than serve to make a profit
For some far-away, anonymous libertine.
So the few who control
The attitudes of the many
Label sea girls and mermaids,
According to Middle High German poets,
Nightingales sing varied songs,
Walter von der Vogelweide
Has the nightingale sing, “Tandaradei.”
I heard a nightingale sing in Rothenburg,
But could not transcribe the complex song into a single word.
We, a Slavic-Teutonic blonde and I,
Saw a flock of nightingales in the Moselle valley,
They fluttered on limbs of bushes growing out of a broken bridge.
We were drinking a dry white wine,
And the dry white wine sung, “Tandaradei.”
Go home before it gets too light,
If you don’t go home before the dark is gone,
The light will become so bright,
You will be lost in light.
If you stay in the light,
Not go home to a dark, curtained room,
You will never be able to see in daylight,
The blue berry and the black berry bush,
And will overlook the textures of sidewalks.
Only Venus’ lips and their lipstick cross the horizon,
Floating above the grass’ green specks on the mountain’s lavender crests.
Gazers have gathered to stand on sun-burned sand to pray
For the return to earth of her blonde curls and whole body.
Once Venus and her whole body dwelt in a Hörselberg cavern,
But now only her lips float high up in the sky over mountains.
In a narrow, dark hallway hangs a portrait
Of a pale man dressed in black whose white-gloved fingers
Are tensely intertwined,
As it all nights had forever lost their moons,
As if he would forever be confronted by a darkness
With hoof sounds of unseen fauns
And the sounds of naked nymphs’ silver sandals
That he could never enter.
The portrait rarely noticed by the bypassers,
Who either gazed at the other brighter wall
With paintings of brown girls, chariots, and cymbals,
Or hurried to the next room with sardonyx, porphyry, and basalt.
I stopped to study his pale face;
As I looked, he closed his eyes.
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Copyright ©Duane Locke, 2000
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Date of publicationDecember 2000
Collection RSSA Hot January
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