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The Drowning

from Sirens by S. J. Tucker

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I met author and poet Catherynne M. Valente at LunaCon 2006, in New Jersey. We both had a lot to do that weekend, but we still managed to strike up a very potent friendship that had seemingly been a long time in coming. Before the convention was over, we were already making fiendish little plans of how we could collaborate creatively.

Cat sent me the lyrics for "The Drowning", what she called her little folk song, and bade me make the song mine and set it to a tune. I asked her to describe for me what she imagined it should sound like, so as not to write something that would put her off. My impression was that she imagined some bluegrassy things happening with it, but my brain had seized upon a cross between the Andrews Sisters and the sirens in the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou.

In spite of the difference, Cat is pleased, and so am I. The story of "The Drowning" comes from a folk legend much like the Corn Maiden and Guy Fawkes Day: the followers of this harvest goddess sacrifice a hand-built image of her so that the seasons will keep turning. I didn't originally make of it a sexy, swingy song, but it's powerful and bewitching now as, hips swaying, the goddess we make puts up with our abuse and comes back to us anyway, if only because that is how her story is written.


Carry me down to the water, Oh,
Carry me down to the sea
Dowse my skirts in the water, Oh,
And cut the red sun from me.

Wrap me in flaxen and wool, Oh
Wrap me up in white
Take me down to the water, Oh,
When the day has bled to night.

Give me my sickle and broom, Oh,
And tie my hands to the stake,
Sally me down to the river, Oh,
And take what you're eager to take.

Burn me and beat me and hold back my arms
Still the sun hides its face from me
And when the summer is gone, Oh,
I'll come flying back out of the sea.

Drown me down in the cold tide, Oh,
Hold back my hair from the waves,
And when I breathe my last, Oh,
Bless my bones in their greenwater grave.

Carry me down to the water, Oh,
Carry me down to the sea
Dowse my skirts in the water, Oh,
And cut the red sun from me.


from Sirens, released October 31, 2006
Words by Catherynne M. Valente, adapted by S. J. Tucker


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S. J. Tucker Perry, Arkansas

“Without our songs and stories, we are nothing.” S. J. Tucker has been captain of her own music career since 2004, when she left the workaday world behind to sing songs and change lives. Tucker is the voice of lore at the campfire and the sharp laughter of modern myth. With one hand anchored in her art and the other held out to us, she is songs and stories, community and wit. ... more


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