Scylla by Herb Kauderer

Scylla
Herb Kauderer

You did nothing but refuse
the advances of Glaucus
who held Circe’s eye.
You were blamed anyway.

As a sea nymph
you must have expected it.
Nymphs are always blamed
by those who don’t know better
& often by those who do.
I don’t blame you (but I don’t matter)

It was Circe, who knew better
(but didn’t care)
that poisoned your beloved water.
She unleashed her magics to ensure
you would never again compete
for the eye of her man.
Poisoned by magic
your lower body transformed
into the heads & necks
of six hideous barking dogs.

Those dogs are part of you now.
They keep you from the deep water
where your heart resides.
You are left to live in a cave
here, near the shallows
where the big ships flee Charybdis
& from each ship that passes
you extract a toll of six men
on which to sustain
new parts of yourself.

It hurts you to feed like this
on others who share
your love for the sea as I do.
But each time the heads
of your lower body
rend a stolen sailor
your eyes may see his face
but your heart & head & soul
see only Glaucus & Circe torn apart.
You deserve that satisfaction.
I would make it true for you
if I could.

 

First appeared in Dreams & Nightmares #40 1993

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