Our song is not what it once was, but then neither are we.
Once, we were the searching ones.
Aiding a weeping mother, we scoured the earth on goddess-given wings,
bird-maidens calling, calling for our lost companion.
Once she was discovered, our song became a plea,
a supplication howling down the rifts and hollows of the Underworld.
We begged for her release from the dark god
who stole her away in his ebony chariot.
Our cries, coupled with her Mother’s complaints on Olympus,
secured her return, but Hades’ sly trick plying her with seeds,
whose sweet juices conceal deeply bitter cores, sealed her fate.
Then our song became an elegy— no, a dirge to innocence.
The gay companion, reduced to somber goddess,
even when she joins her mother at half year.
Banished to a rocky island still we sang.
And what curses slithered up from the depths
and down from the heights to shame and silence us.
Called Sirens, Temptresses, Death-bringers of the rocks,
We watched the clever King of Ithaca lashed to the ship’s mast,
as his men, wax-stoppered ears deaf to our pleas and his, rowed him past.
While he boasted of having lived to tell of our song, he never revealed
its content—an indictment, a reminder of what the gods deemed fair.
We sang on, knowing that while the blame was not ours
we would shoulder it anyway.
For where lies our fault that a man should wreck himself
chasing a song not meant for him?
Of course we were transformed into monsters by the invectives of men.
Pearl teeth to fangs, soft toes to claws, supple bodies
and lovely faces to withered horrors.
We gathered more names as well
Harpies, Gorgons, Furies, Succubi,Lorelei, Valkryies,
Banshees, Fishwives, Hysterics…Shrills.
We are them all, all the women who sing, who speak, who,,, tell.
Let the curses come.
We have heard them for millennia, yet still we sing.
No, our song is not what it once was,
but then, again, neither are we.
Loretta Casteen, 2018