Poetry

Seductress Divine by Joy Sheridan | Women’s History Month

She wore only an expression of fatal illusions,

The power to capture and tear off at whim

Those moths which fluttered

Low, bright and light around her.

Memory served no purpose while in her presence,

For she would but lift her eyes and sweep them

Over the brow of lovers – fatal she was,

A darkened Madonna cut out of hall

Of black sighings.

Stop now, all who would have some fear

For themselves, for once over the threshold

Only a tear shall fall, and serve as a vaporous conclusion

In the manuals that are lodged in her halls.

Come close though, and we shall lift the curtains,

Peeping through, we shall mingle our eyes

With the candles that flicker – how heavy

The air is, soaked with longing, submerged with

That perfume despair – see there a chair

Which seems a monument to those who did cross

The threshold, there waited for seeming eternities –

Mere seconds they were.

Then along the corridor they were taken

Into the chamber that served as her throne-room –

Whilst she, a vast, undefinable substance, was hid

Behind a cloud of incense –

See how her eyes smart, how quick is the heart,

How trembling the limbs. There is no sunlight here,

Only fear makes a star appear on the furthermost wall,

Whispering voices and gently persuasive hands.

Suddenly, behind you, you know that she stands,

Her hand soft as a gentle death,

She wears violets on her breast.

You do not turn, only look in the mirror and see her.

Then, above the turn of your collar

Two, three fingers appear, and lift away

Your garments slowly, like a daffodil unsheathed

Until you stand naked, with only

Your beating heart to make movement.

Soon, across a lake of fur you are led:

These same hands take yours and pull you

Towards towards, ah – what Towards!

Then upon, and inside, a tent of delicate furnishings

The loom of feeling is worked, the lute begins gently to sing –

Then you are found, shuttered at the break of day

On the edges of a wood, or hidden

Half-in and half-out of some doorway –

A rose by your side, seems less than you

Seems less than you to be alive.

Now see we, we are hidden and free,

Yet let us continue to watch these strangers

Who would try their lots, though every man

Is hand-picked, like the choicest fruit.

Now some come and some go – some are golden

In colour and lithe of limb, some tall and dark,

And very slim; some are bronzed the darkest red,

And some so pale they could almost be dead.

Yet one comes, who seems a creature

Formed from light itself, so fine the head

That gracefully moves, for he is born of the living

And not of the dead. See he stands –

A pearl-bright lightness makes a pool

Like mother-of-pearl; he looks at the rooms

And the furnishings – meditates upon its hell –

Not for him the whim of dark passion,

Nor the smell of incense which swims

Dark and dangerous through his limbs,

Nor the richness of the heavy twilight

Which is the colour of this place – eternally bright.

He would cast a shadow here, and it would burn

As the sun does at mid-day in a Mediterranean year.

See the messengers beckon him into the room:

He brings a gift encased in a shell – offers it before him –

Being a figurine that seems.


Joy wrote this poem in 1975.

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