*Odysseus' Face*

The Sirens Make a Collect Call

My crew heartily pulled on their oars in harmony with the ocean waves, but before long a canvas-bellying breeze set the ship easily on its way. This freed me to take a cake of beeswax and cut it up into pieces. I rolled the chunks between my hands until they formed soft, sweet smelling, yellow balls.

I gave my crew instructions to tie me to the mast as tightly as if it were a splint to my back. We were about to pass the island of the Sirens.

I told them should I cry out while we were within earshot, then they must simply bind me even tighter to the mast. But under no circumstances were they to remove the wax from their ears or to untie me unless we were well away from these enticing nymphs. I carefully plugged each one's ears with the wax balls. It was like placing pearls within living oysters. I then allowed myself to be bound, feeling the bite of course twine around my torso.

A dead calm came over the ship of a sudden. My crew took in the sail and then set themselves before the rowlocks once more. Again they sent oarblades slicing through the waters. Except for their plash an eery silence descended as we approached the rocky shores of the Siren's home.

Two of those unearthly creatures noted the passage of our swift ship and began singing, soon to be joined by their siblings in this song:

Boys and girls,
Come out to play,
The moon is shining
Bright as day.

If the moon is shining
Bright as day,
We think that we'll
Stay in and play.

Hey nonny nonny!
Come, Jennie! Come, Johnnie!
The year's adolescent!
The air's effervescent!
It bubbles like Schweppes!
Aren't you going to take steppes?

It's one of the commoner
Vernal phenomena,
You may go wild
Over air that is mild,
But Johnnie and Jennie
Are not having any.

It is Spring! It is Spring!
Let us leap! Let us sing!
Let us claim we have hives
And abandon our lives!
Let us hire violins
To encourage our sins!
Let us loll in a grotto!
Let this be our motto:
Not sackcloth, but satin!
Not Nordic, but Latin!

An epicene voice
Is our amorous choice!
Tell us that Luna
Compares with that cruna.
Away with your capers!
Go peddle your papers!

It is Spring! It is Spring!
On the lea, on the ling!
The frost is dispersed!
Like the buds let us burst!
Let the sap in our veins
Rush like limited trains!
Let our primitive urges
Disgruntle our clergies,
While Bacchus and Pan
Cavort in the van!

Spring is what winter
Always goes inter.
Science finds reasons
For mutable seasons.
Can't you control
That faun in your soul?
Please go and focus
Your whims on a crocus.

It is Spring! Is it Spring?
Let us sing! Shall we sing?
On the lea, on the ling
Shall we sing it is Spring?
Will nobody fling
A garland to Spring?
Oh, hey nonny nonny!
Oh, Jennie! Oh, Johnnie!
Doesn't dove rhyme with love
While the moon shines above?
Isn't May for the wooer
And June for l'amour?

No, it couldn't be Spring!
Do not dance! Do not sing!
These birds and these flowers,
These breezes and bowers,
These gay tirra-lirras
Are all done with mirrors!
Hey nonny! Hey nonny!
Hey nonny! Hey nonny!
Hey nonny! Hey nonny!
Hey nonny...

(The Passionate Pagan and the Dispassionate Public
by Ogden Nash © 1931)

I struggled and screamed for release. I must join with this universal melliphony. I could hardly experience myself as anything but a single wave of sound. Eurylokhos and Perimedes leapt up and secured me even more firmly to that awful wooden pole, wrapping loop upon loop of rope around my body.

Extremes of pain or pleasure have no distinction and time becomes neither long nor short. At some point my crew peeled the wax out of their ears and set me free.


Truly Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps