“Giri with White Veil,” Nicolae Grigorescu, WikiArt.

Part 1: Shipwrecked on Isle of Nyos

Ever-changing seas and tides, merchant ship
I boarded, veiled passenger, few coins saved,
Like other strangers huddled below, old life
Escaped, new sought, destination and destiny
Unknown. To sailing trade, we were “human
Amphorae,” concealing identities and secrets,
Worth equal to frankincense and olive oil.
Thus, nameless, faceless, touching only to
Squeeze another amongst our ranks, we made
No conversation, lest we reveal who we were –
Or pretended not to be, wealthy and poor alike,
Petty criminals, Athens daughter runaway,
Servant girl’s name given, Kardelen.

Lives cast away with dock lines, evening tide,
Sails filled by seagoing easterlies, my odyssey
Began, fears lessened by hopes wave-cresting,
Three days, no privacy, ship-rolling seasickness,
Stomachs empty, in unison we prayed, cursed
Fates, and heaved, plights of collected miseries,
My only possession breast-clutched lover’s
Agate amulet, agora purchased, secret gifted
In bread-loaf hollowed, we would meet on
Distant isles, message sent back, thus we
Planned, until furies turned the tale, ship-
Wrecking seas, adrift in thunderstorms.

Ship breaching, ear-shattering mast breaking,
Seawater rushing downward, neither when nor
There, life and flotsam clinging, teeth of seas
Seething, I prayed to gods, old and new, those
I imagined cared not for me, yet my pleas, like
Seabirds, few aloft, cloud spiraling, promises
Made, awakening to dawning beams. Had I died,
My soul heavenward sailed, or elated dreams,
Had I been saved, my prayerful promises to
To gods fulfill? Cloud-swept isle appearing,
Disappearing in sea-chop, I kicked until
Beach revealed, clear streams pure-running.

“Winged Figure,” Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1904, WikiArt.

Isle of Nyos beneath my feet, garments torn,
Breasts and amulet exposed, onto shores I
Collapsed, to sleep drifted, concerns of lost
Loves, family, hostile home all drowned. Alive,
Firm earth found, life’s mysteries, girl sixteen,
Alone, hungry, half the sea swallowed. Yet,
Awakened by sweet voices, taloned feet at
My face, goddess regal attire adorned, dark
Wingéd bird admixed, sights sea-imagined,
Savior from ship-sinking storms, feathered
Feet of Parthenope I kissed in humble thanks
And praise whilst siren’s song she sang.

New poetic adventure begins with Kardelen, ship-wreck encounter with
Parthenope, wingéd siren from Greek antiquity or heavenly angel,
Taloned tormentor or divine protectress, Kardelen is at her mercy.
For more on sirens singing on the seashore, see link:

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