Jul/Aug 2017 Poetry Special Feature

The Compulsion

by Chelsey L. Slattum

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

The Compulsion

After The Siren by John William Waterhouse

There comes a need to step from the edge
of a ship you call home.
Plucked by an index finger, strings
guide your strokes through a gallery of basalt arches.
And when you find the siren
your eyes are whites,
yet you must release the broken mast
to grasp the stone beneath her scales.
You forget
the ropes that knot your arm and
the sharp tip of your gold earring.
Your uniform, shredded, is now ribbons that match her hair.
She looks past your face
to the meat of your chest and
stops her strum.
And when she tilts forward, her auburn waves
dipping into the sea, your mouth opens,
not for words, but a final breath.


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