“Why should it be that they have feathers now
And feet of birds, though still a girl’s fair face,
The sweet-voiced Sirens? Was it not because,
When Proserpine was picking those spring flowers,
They were her comrades there, and, when in vain
They’d sought for her through all the lands, they prayed
For wings to carry them across the waves,
So that the seas should know their search”
~ Ovid, “The Rape of Proserpine”
The sun shone too brightly on the day he took you.
We remember the scream of the wheels of his chariot,
the color of the sky, the bite of wildflower thorns.
We saw the earth open beneath you,
saw your first steps into the Lethe.
We remember the moment you forgot us.
We searched for you,
our failure marked our skins with feathers,
a mutilation we cultivated
so as to fly, so as to beg the ocean for help.
We paid the price gladly.
The living cannot speak to the dead.
And then, all at once, you were home. Rising from the ground,
your pomegranate-stained mouth smiling,
a red stain on white bedsheets,
a promise fulfilled,
a promise broken.
Spring slips her arms around her mother.
And what of us?
We have no cold lover’s touch,
no secrets of death to whisper.
We offer only days in fields of wildflowers,
nights full of laughter,
a lonely song of friendship.
Forgotten, we are the shadows the Queen of Shades no longer sees.
We retreat to cliffs by the sea,
practice singing the harsh truths we have learned.
Ships wreck beneath us, men are broken on our shores,
because love is also death
and the sirens have not forgotten.
Author Bio: Brittany Warman is a PhD student in English and Folklore at The Ohio State University, where she concentrates on the intersection between literature and folklore, particularly fairy tale retellings. Her creative work has been published by or is forthcoming from Mythic Delirium, Stone Telling, Jabberwocky Magazine, Ideomancer, inkscrawl, Cabinet des Fees: Scheherezade’s Bequest, and others. She can be found online at http://www.brittanywarman.com/