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Song and the Prayers of Men
Ariadne struck the mast

Enraged. She     couldn’t sail, no

One had ever bothered to

Teach her, but the ship wouldn’t

Be still.     She had awoken

To find Thesus dead, his crew

Dead,     and at first she had felt

Relief.     She had thought maybe

The drifting ship would take her

Back home, but soon,     as the ship

Seemed to wobble beneath her

She realized the danger

She was in, and with her rage

Came the sorrow the poets

Remember.     Two days later

The ship beached on a shade-choked

Black island. The     sand, the soil

The flowers and the trees, the

Animals, even,     all were

A deep, a     mineral black

A black the Greeks couldn’t yet

Have manufactured,     and there

The dead rose and disembarked

As Ariadne watched, they

Surrounded the ship.     Some stood

In the water, and some kneeled

In the mud where the water

Met the sand, and they began

To peel from the hull a white

Vegetal husk     that had formed

Soundlessly there, as the ship

Approached the shore.     For three hours

They peeled the husk from the ship

And laid it in long, frayed strips

On the beach. They didn’t see

Ariadne, didn’t     hear

Her,     though she followed Thesus

Shouting, shoving him until

He and his crew had finished

And the ship itself seemed dead

From the strips,     Thesus and his

Crew fashioned thin, box-like greaves

And chest plates, frail shields, and swords

Like toys.     And then, with their hands

The dead men began digging

A hole to the underworld

Ariadne stopped     shoving

Thesus. She turned to the sea

But the sea was still. She stepped

Toward the sea,     but a fog

Rushed from beyond the shoreline

To her feet, and hardened, and

She couldn’t pierce it.     She sat

Down, facing the hard fog, and

Sang     to no one but herself

And was buried in the mud

The men piled behind themselves

Singing.     But just then, enraged

By news of yet another

Infidelity, again

Resulting in a child, so

One more child,     one more woman

She must hate, or risk wounding

Zeus’s vanity, Hera

Heard Ariadne’s voice     in

The feathery knot of cries

And prayers, and songs     that rises new

Every moment from the Earth

And tugged it loose, and cupped it

In her palm, and cupped her palm

Against her ear, and she sang

Ariadne’s song     returned

Then, to Ariadne, in

The goddess’s voice and

With the goddess’s power

And Ariadne was raised

From the dirt     by Hera’s voice

And carried to the other

Side of the world,     where she was

Transformed     into an ever

-Expanding country, too dis

-tant for Greek ships,     a new nest

For the Sirens, who, despite

What the poets say, are male

And don’t sing, but shout prayers, and

Stretch their shores     across the seas

By filling the seas with bones

Shane McCrae's latest books are Cain Named the Animal and Sometimes I Never Suffered (both Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a finalist for the Maya Angelou Book Award, the T. S. Eliot Prize, and the Rilke Prize. He has received a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, among others.