Joshua St. Claire
The Man with the Stone Flute
Don’t listen to the man with the stone flute,
Who dances mad under the linden leaves.
Don’t listen to his nymphs or their fair lutes.
Their nightsongs bring a sleep that deceives.
Other children whisper, but don’t believe,
That the man and his nymphs give forest fruits
To children who hear the songs that they weave
And dance for the man with the stone flute.
One night, I heard the lyric of a strange lute
And spied a golden shoulder all in leaves.
I jumped and left my bed in mad pursuit,
Perhaps to dance under the linden leaves.
I met the other children under forest eaves
And we ran to the spring that flows among the linden roots.
Then, we heard the man with the stone flute weave
Music with his nymphs on their fiery lutes.
He bid us dance for the forest fruit
Twirling—fast—faster—than we could believe—
Then—sudden blackness—with the scent of fruit—
Their songs brought a sweetness that deceived.
Now we are sleeping while our parents grieve
The eternal slumber of their cursed fruit.
They beg the other children to believe:
Don’t follow the nymphs and their hellish lutes
Or that devil with the stone flute.
Joshua St. Claire is an accountant who works as a financial executive for a large non-profit rural Pennsylvania, USA. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Lana Turner, Modern Haiku, Burningword Literary Journal, Delmarva Review, and Ligeia Magazine, among others. He is Pushcart Prize, Rhysling Award, and Best of the Net nominee. His work has appeared in the Dwarf Stars Anthology and he is the winner of the Gerald Brady Memorial Senryu Award.
Author’s Backstory: Like many people, my first engagement with literature was fairy tales and nursery rhymes. These initial exposures have cast a long shadow and I frequently engage with these sources when writing poetry. “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” has long fascinated me. In this reimagining of the story, I have centered the delicious danger of the natural and supernatural worlds. These dangers may fascinate us, but we ignore them to our peril. This poem, a rondeau redoublé, was written with my first engagement with received forms. The recapitulation of the lines from the first stanza and the tight rhyme scheme are the ideal vehicle for story of a warning ignored and contribute to the atmosphere of this poem.
Editor’s Notes and/or Image Credit: Nude Nymphs Dancing to Pan’s Flute Around the Fire [oil painting by Joseph Tomanek]