An Old Story


We’d heard about the sirens—
cruel sea-creatures as lovely
as their song, as heartless
as the rocks around them.

Our captain’s folly amazed us...
and when he cried and pleaded,
and struggled against the ropes
until they cut into his flesh
and reddened with his blood,
we watched embarrassed—
watched the mighty Odysseus
whimper like a child,
his eyes begging us
to set him free.

Myself I heard nothing.
Nor did I wish to.
Why disturb the heart’s
the peace of not knowing
and not wanting?

Why indeed!
Yet when in your town again
after so many years
I rang you up.
I don’t know why.

I realised when I heard your voice
just how he must have felt,
how great his longing must have been
to break the ties that bound him
and dive into the swirling sea—
the pain of wanting an aching in his guts,
an emptiness that neither his wife Penelope,
nor Telemachus his son,
nor the home he’d sought so many years
could fill.
               But this was much later—
when you said goodbye and I too,
far off in the distance,
heard the sound of sirens.

Pavlos Andronikos