The Sirens of the Buffalo River

The androgynous sirens of the Buffalo River—
they are not female destroying angels—
appear to me in the full moon light around alternate bends in the river.
They take the form of loose-limbed, fluid-dancing otters
dressed in miles and miles of light-spangled, flowing black silk.

Dip your hands into their essence, the water,
warm as a sensory deprivation tank.
But no sensory deprivation here,
only full sensory immersion in holy water.
Lower your whole body into their embrace and
allow them to wrap you in their liquid silk.

Listen to their songs:
the basso profundo of the bull frog, the tenor tones,
trumpeting-whaas of tree frogs and saxophone squawks of herons,
the lamenting whippoorwills and be-here-now tail slaps of the beavers—
lest you drift into sleep and your boat drifts
into overhanging tree branches.

The sirens disguise themselves as beery-breathed, big-breasted
biker babes for the red necks in the rock-smashing aluminum canoes,
raucously making their way from one gravel bar to the next.
The rednecks serve the sirens in their own way;
for that and their good-natured alcoholic haze,
ya gotta love ’em.

They ask if they’d seen us earlier,
all kayakers look alike to them.
We agree and laugh and tell them ‘nowhere’
when they ask where we’re going.
We laugh and tell them ‘we forget’
when they ask where we’d put in.
We laugh and float downstream on that
warm, wet-shining silvery ribbon of a river.

Sometimes the sirens hide near the turtles
behind rocks and logs when there’s
heavy traffic on the river in the moonlight in the summer.
‘When?’ we devotees of the sirens ask,
‘When did full-moon floating get to be so popular?’
‘Used to be…’
‘15-25 years ago!’
‘only us river rats on the river.’
‘Remember the time…?’

My boat floats off into a cove on the other bank;
the sound of my husband’s ever present pennywhistle
wafts up river from his boat.

Two of us drift apart from the rest, just staring
at the dark indigo and forest green washes
in pools of black-sequined water and stay long
after the others paddle on.

Lights and soft voices appear from a cove on the left.
‘Ahoy?’ I question.
‘Ahoy…?’ comes a timorous young voice
on a cloud of marijuana.
‘Sorry, wrong ahoy.’
I dip my paddle into the current.

The sirens send out the teenaged, otter-incarnated sylphs
who’d slept all day.  They’re listening to Andalusian lute music
on their waterproof headphones.  In the cool night air,
they seek the rapids, playing roller coaster,
riding the floaters on their acrobatic backs.

Our convoy comes together around a fire on an empty gravel bar,
and we linger long, savoring the last sips and nibbles, savoring
each other, savoring the river and moonlight, inhaling riverine air.
A heron flies across the yellow disk already near to setting.

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About the Author

Since 1976, my husband and I have lived on a hardscrabble, 40-acre piece of Ozark land as back-to-the-landers, a group of very determined people. We still garden organically and largely rely on ourselves and our community for entertainment and inspiration. I am also a textile artist working in a wide variety of disciplines. My memoir, BACK TO THE LAND: ALLIANCE COLONY TO THE OZARKS was published by Stockton University Press in February 2020, and my poetry appears in print and online.

Ruth Weinstein
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