Illustration for the poem: Two sirens at the approach of Ulysses, by Jac May, painted for the poem April 2017. Bamboo pen & wash, Saunders Waterford 200 lbs rough paper, 15x21inches.
I had the comment on Instagram about this being a feisty siren! I certainly wasn’t thinking of the local choral society when I planned this, though for all I know…. I wanted to articulate graphically the question I constantly ask myself, as an upright sort of chap, Is there any course in creativity between being tied to convention & being totally wrecked? This poem is about the way we deal with that tension.
Ulysses tied himself to the mast
so that he could hear the sirens
yet not be wrecked upon their shore.
Do I not also play safe and hold back,
lashed to forms and conventions,
limiting risk and all my landings evermore?
Yet, like a warrior going a-Viking,
would I not rather voyage through storm
and wind to find a golden hoard
and, failing, be buried under my shield
rather than yield to comfort in my hall
and see the dust settle on my sword.
Damned by doubts, I find I steer a path
between the could and should and would:
I avoid the total risk for which I long
and when I close my eyes and dream
I find hollow spaces in my heart
and silence where there should be song.
Baldur, Eostre, Vor and Thor,
make me wise and fearless for this wording war;
I defy you to untie me from this mast,
– fumble the knots! Unleash my lines! And I will go away like streamers of surf to roar beyond the margins of the page and day, a thousand thoughts set free, rock-bound boats bid by a singing shore –
even if that moment were my last.
Jac May, 2017