Do Not Toy With the Hearts of Men

"The Heart of Stone"

this was
the heart of a siren.

Helplessly hard
she came to the shores
to comb her hair and
play a game of cards.

Swearing and spitting
among the seaweed.
She was the image herself
of those hellish barmaids
that in stories murdered
the weary traveler.

She killed her lovers
and danced in the waves.

And so,
time passed in the wicked life of the siren
until her fierce lover, the sailor
pursued her with harpoon and guitar
through all the seafoam,
farther than the most distant archipelagoes,
and when she reclined in his arms,
the sailor gave her his beveled point,
a final kiss,
and a justified death.

Then from the ship
the dead commanders descended,
beheaded by that treacherous siren,
and with cutlass,
fork and knife,
pulled that heart of stone out of her chest,
near the sea,
it was allowed to anchor,
in order that it could teach the little sirens
to learn to behave properly
with the enamoured sailors.

-Pablo Neruda

Neruda was talking about the ocean, I think, but nevertheless I have always taken this poem under advisement. That sense of it being a personal warning for me not to be careless in my love life came back to me last night.

It was a very disconcerting experience. A few days ago, at the Free Store, I picked up a copy of a book by a writer I had known back in Toronto, thirty years ago. Last night, I opened it up, read a few paragraphs, then randomly skipped a few pages ahead and read...about me. Actually me. Not just someone I identified with. This guy and I had had one-and-a half dates back in 1979, and I "spurned his advances". Not very gracefully it would seem from his re-telling of events.

Apparently he kept a diary. Can you imagine coming across an old boyfriend's diary, and reading about his desire for you? (Given how everything turned out, it was a good thing I never slept with him.) Certainly makes me think twice about the personal stuff I have put in this blog. Even though names may be changed to protect the innocent (or guilty).

Anyway, I hope I have learned a few things over the intervening years. But a reminder to treat other people with kindness, honesty and integrity never hurts.


  1. Between the pictures, that poem and your post my hair is standing on end.It could have been worse! What if he wrote bad porn and was a complete liar!

  2. Wow! Can you imagine how such a person would portray the poor women who had the misfortune to have had two or more dates with him?

  3. Anonymous7:52 PM

    What an odd sensation that must have been. To have the past, an event long since forgotten, suddenly reappear, zombie-like from the pages of a book. I'm sure the French or the Germans or the Icelandic have a word or phrase that defines the experience exactly but I can't, at the moment, think of the proper English. Why is English so crude when it comes to these sorts of experiences? Was that what Proust was after when he wrote about his petites madeleines? But your experience doesn't sound as if it was full of joy and you suggest that the writer does not describe your encounter with him in rosy terms either. H.m.m.m.... keep this in mind. When Margaret Atwood writes about women in her books it's always the slightly dangerous ones that we remember and love the most. Whatever happened on those 1.5 dates that you had with that writer, you certainly left and impression and he was compelled to put it down on paper. For him, your time together was memorable. That's quite an accomplishment in this amnesiac world, don't you think? I hope you have kept the book.


  4. How interesting, what happened and your reaction to it too. You obviously had quite an effect on the guy!

  5. I had a face-to-face encounter at a school reunion this last week. Had not seen a man for 30 years. He went on and on about his feeling for me back then...I am embarrassed to say I couldn't think of his name! I agree with Deb-it could have been worse-he could have lied about the true nature of your relationship

  6. This is your blog and your experiences. You shouldn't have to feel guilty for your interpretation of events--or someone else's account of yours. Your words are yours to choose. I would miss reading what you write if you started censoring yourself.


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