December 28, 2015

In Irish lore the banshee,
no color in her cheeks,
thin as can be,
comes in the evening
to herald a passing.

She dances under the moon
to melancholy thoughts
on the shores
of the River Shannon,
where memories sail off.

She is there to honor what’s past
and what’s to come.
’Tis a final calling from the spirits,
predestined and done.

*

It was winter at the sea,
Christmas vacation for the family.
Delicate waves,
in unison with the wind,
broke at the shore.

Through his camera,
the boy saw a figure,
transparent and lithe.
A man or woman?
He wasn’t sure.
Nor the camera
nor his naked eye
could record a face.
As the figure approached
his sisters thought it was a girl.

Long-haired,
in a dress with flowing sleeves,
the figure turned toward the wind:
It’s time for story.

The family sat up
to watch in wonder
and fright.
Who was coming
to disturb them
on their last night?

As she danced,
her sleeves spread like wings,
yet her feet made no sound;
not a splash in the water
or footprint could be found.

Dance, strange creature, dance!
She is in a trance.
Rhythmic, with purpose,
what story does she tell?

Shivering in warm air,
the little sister stood to leave.

“We better not approach,”
the family agreed,
not knowing what they’d seen.

*

The family learned the next day,
while boarding the plane,
Dad’s mother had passed away.

Banshee had foretold truth;
she’d not intended to fright.
With mother’s eyes closed,
mystery entered light.

Banshee at Sea is a poem in Sally O’Dowd’s collection Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss. It was originally published by Literati MagazineDavid Ehlen’s art on Facebook.

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