The Maiden of the Waters

Their oak and pine sailed the liquid salts,
and entered her land with lies, irons and steel…
before she could smell the disease in their blood,
the bloodthirst in their hearts,
their heartless intent.

She warned the Chief; but
his advice-givers reminded him
that the Witch Priestess had rejoined the land…
before saying that a mere maiden
could walk the steps of a Crone.

“I hold the comb,” the maiden said.
“Grandmother sang into my soul.
If you don’t let me sing the words,
the land will swallow our people’s flesh
and strangers will step on their broken bones.”

She continued to ask, but no one listened.

After death thickened the wind,
the Maiden sang the Crone’s words to the river…
and the water filled with breath.

Holding on to a procession
of open eyes and ears,
she descended into water-shielded caves.

When the moon is full of silver,
the Maiden of the Waters swims to the surface
to detangle her long black hair
with a comb made
of Grandmothers’ golden songs.

Process Note: The Indians of the Waters is a Dominican myth that speaks of a group of Taínos, indigenous people, who escaped the slaughter and disease introduced by the Spaniards. The myth says that these Taínos found refuge in underwater caves, and they continue to live there peacefully. During full moons, women of The Waters come to the surface to detangle their hair with a golden comb (conditioner must be scarce in the caves?). Different versions of the myth suggest that during the hair detangling escapades, the women also manage to seduce and kidnap men from the surface (it seems detangler is not the only thing running low in the caves).

NaPoWriMo with Magaly Guerrero 2015, Day 7 – This Poem Is a Myth: Conjure up a poem that describes a person, creature, or thing from any mythology.

for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads

Woman Moonvia
(artist unknown)

70 thoughts on “The Maiden of the Waters

  1. Now, that is a neat legend. I note the women keep their siren persona, because if you’re on a rock brushing out your wet hair, you’re clearly up to no good. It’s got to be a damn nuisance, having drowning sailors clutching at your feet while you’re trying to do a little personal grooming.

    Love the poem. That Cassandra curse gets around, doesn’t it?

  2. Love the native twist on the mermaid, and the image of untangling tresses with the golden comb passed, or breathed, on down. I think we all look more alluring if we venture from our caves by full moonlight, sucked in the dudes who fall for it (do they know nothing of sirens hehe)

    • You would think that if they see a woman fiddling with her hair, probable breathing a song and such, they would run for the hills. Maybe the schools should spend some time teaching myth and grooming requirements. 😀

  3. What a beautiful legend! One of the most mystical I have heard, of those that record the arrival of colonialists to foreign shores.

    Your word choice and language is very rich, and I like the way you use words of matching sounds.

  4. This is utterly beautiful… so rich in the texture of language… vivid imagery… and most of all it has a good even flow throughout the poem! Awe-inspiring 😀

    • I have so many reasons why I completely adore myth. One of my most powerful reasons is that it shows our similarities. Most cultures have a mermaid tale, and a tale that shows how Native people’s found a way to survive extinction… even if just in spirit in certain cases.

  5. I love that this poem starts with the intrusion of imperialists that cause desperate action. The story of the maidens makes me think of Cassandra of Greek myth who predicted accurately but no one believed her. What a curse! But here the maidens find a way toward a survival of a culture that renews–also at their behest. I think I saw one of those deep pooled caves in Mexico, though there the stories tended to be of drownings rather than of survivals.

    • Yes! And I love that about the world and its mythologies. If people–all people–looked just a bit harder, they would see that at the core of our cultural beginnings, we are so alike.

  6. Your first line
    “Their oak and pine sailed the liquid salts,
    and entered her land with lies, irons and steel…”
    grabs me and reels me in, making me want more. I love the myth you covered, reminded me of Sirens and the true nature of mermaids (not the disney rendition). Freaking good stuff lady!

  7. A great myth and a great poem! People often denigrate and dismiss myths as mere fables — “lies and falsehoods.” But they miss the point that myth is the expression of truth precisely through the untrue. The great paradox of Truth.

    • Reality is a tough thing to swallow most days. Myths and fictions can bring ideals and histories into the surface without annoying people too much. If only most of us understood that the lesson is much more important than how it is taught…

  8. “After death thickened the wind” Very nice. Also I second everything that Rhissanna said. She hit the nail on the head in her comment.

  9. I am chuckling at your end notes about the women being scarce of conditioners – and men – in the caves! I so enjoyed reading this wonderful poem. Love the story, and you told it so well. I especially resonate with the stanza about holding the comb and singing Grandmother’s words, lest the land will swallow the peoples’ flesh and strangers step on their bones. WOW!!!!!!!!

    • I love myth (I might have said that too many times in this post, lol), but I do love them. I’m enchanted by how much of what happens in a myth makes absolutely no sense. But it’s important to the myth itself.

      They make me laugh, sometimes… While growing up, I think it was the humor that kept me interested, until I was old enough to understand that people and living happen in myth, and we should pay attention.

      I love that the wildest and most magical part of the myth appeals to you. ♥

  10. I love these voyages into the your myths, Magaly–as all myth is a sort of mental lifeblood to me, a language the past speaks which we have lost, universal in our human souls as the message of those gone before us–Grandmother’s songs, if you will. There is pathos in this one but it never veers into excess, just carries the reader to the edge of a burned and blackened landscape where people must carry on despite injustice and wrong, and somehow make music and love and laughter from the ashes. You always do. Just loved this (and was snorkling over the lack of …necessities in the caverns.)

    • Like many before me, I became interested in writing (in philosophy of religion and world cultures) after reading all the myth I could find. It made me hopeful, I think. I told myself, If people are reading this, then they will certainly notices how similar we are. The truth was a tad more complex, but still myth worked in helping understand whey that was.

      I’m snickering at the absence of of cavernous goods, lol!

  11. PS. Just saw your remarks to Sherry! Yes, on the not making sense! I have been reading the Scandinavian creation stories, and know exactly what you mean, and yet that part that makes no sense or even is so silly that we have to giggle, is a magnet of a mystery for me of how someone thought and felt that makes them real.

    • Exactly! Just imagine how terrible certain myths would be, if every bit of it read like history. The tales would be all death and horror, and little to no hope to carry on. We all know how much we need the latter…

  12. I love the different take on the tales of Sirens and Mermaids. Along side that the words you wrote;

    “Their oak and pine sailed the liquid salts,
    and entered her land with lies, irons and steel…
    before she could smell the disease in their blood,
    the bloodthirst in their hearts,
    their heartless intent.”

    Give body to the poem and show how many myths have hard truths hidden within their words. With such tales the history of many have been passed down in ways for folk to remember, eventually they become just myths of imagination with the hidden truth only recognized by a few.

  13. Such an intriguing tale…both your version and the one you shared!!

    I love these…

    “After death thickened the wind,
    the Maiden sang the Crone’s words to the river…
    and the water filled with breath.”

    both for sound play and poignancy…great write!!

  14. i read your poem which reads like a fairy tale with much eagerness. okay so i luved it. then , when i read the process note i had to Laugh out Loud (LOL)

    have a creative month

    much love…

  15. what an amazing story you have weaved.

    such interesting characters too. i feel a little as if i’ve just went on a journey to some mythical land. 🙂

    wishing you the best for NaPoWriMo!

  16. After death thickened the wind,
    the Maiden sang the Crone’s words to the river…
    and the water filled with breath.

    Love that! Legends draw me in. There is such power in the retelling of a story. It mixes truth with myth and leaves you wondering which is which.

  17. This is an interesting myth, Magaly. You told it well. It was good that the Taínos gave the women the respect and status that we still don’t have in here in the U.S. I wonder how it is in the Dominican Republic?

  18. Wow. No really. I stand by that. Wow. What an amazing myth. And your poetry was so well suited to its telling. You always shine when you tap into your heritage. Alma Mia comes instantly to mind. It’s a unique voice, all your own. Beautiful offering, Lady Magaly.

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