Seiren Song

by Steve Parker
Honorable Mention, August 2008
Judged by Tony Barnstone

that made him yearn not for women not water’s shades
some same cool and riversides
and rat-shatters and ice and low bursts

and green fingers stretching for his
only to drug as from strings words
out of him but to a night-sky whirled
in lofts within reach of that fishman

which spun from salt jism ancestors the while
alert to tugs the binary [fire] engine-putting
(slow as yawls) (moans of location) (mist)

over years over
humming shadow machinery
limbic waves of song

take me up he crieth take
in the Fall flowered as arrayed death dynamited

grey-flopping up murk-bearing O grim-aspected

fishman of fleeting littoral, falsehood of starry fishmen
casting of sparks, bearing of eggs, spuming of milt

some psentage’ve what hear’ve in dead channels
outflow’ve of a litl bang

your fucking tongue I know is our joint antenna twisting

but this, this

(O untrousered apprishns of Phnicia
thy mermids ist none so faire—
what outspankered prismes, what
neutic flutic combes soonest they bare)

Yes, I know that this poem seems to descend into gibberish pretty regularly, and that it has absolutely wild shifts in register (from the contemporary diction of “your fucking tongue I know is our joint antenna twisting” to the overwrought alliterative diction of “fishman of fleeting littoral, falsehood of starry fishmen” to the archaism of “O untrousered apprishns of Phnicia / thy mermids ist none so faire—“). But, wow, it’s fun. And I like those twists of diction, shifts and frictions of reference and rhetoric. Finally, I like the author’s great sense of humor, as he or she blends nonce words in with the archaisms. I don’t know what “outspankered prismes” are, nor what it means to bare one’s “neutic flutic combes,” but the newness and oldness and weirdness of the language are such that, frankly, I don’t care. I can guess. The poem seems to be a Frankenstein monster stitched together from odd literary corpses and the bloody pieces of the author’s imagination, written in the ideogrammatic method of that crazy old fascist Ezra Pound. But, unlike far too many of Pound’s Cantos, this monster’s got a jolt of life to make its limbs twitch. Watch it rise from its slab and wander the countryside until it’s pulled in by the siren song of the old man’s violin. --Tony Barnstone