Archive for September 2009

Caves and Pools

September 19, 2009

witkin_Cupid_and_centaur

According to the ancient story, King Ixion commits horrible crimes and is punished with madness. Yet, for reasons that are unclear, Zeus takes pity on him, and transports him to Olympus, to mingle with the gods. Delirious Ixion, however, shows gratitude for his host’s clemency by attempting to seduce Hera herself, and earns the wrath of her jealous and of course omnipotent husband. Zeus first decides to play a prank, and creates an ersatz Hera, identical to his wife but composed of mist, and sends her to Ixion. The king loves and makes love to this gynecomorphous cloud, which afterward retains its form long enough to give birth to the Centaurs. Then the true punishment begins. Zeus orders Ixion to be bound to a winged and fiery wheel which must spin in the underworld for all eternity, pausing only when Orpheus, playing his lyre, wanders by.

Both Aeschylus and Euripides wrote tragedies based on the downfall of Ixion, but the plays are lost. To fill the gap, I’ll compose a less tragic narrative, set in the present day. Ixion and his Hera-cloud, a rich mixture of anima and carnality, energy and form, pursue their unlikely romance for months or even years, both profoundly in love, neither truly understanding the transitory nature of mist. When the  fog clears, Ixion is condemned to torture in certain caves, but this too lasts only a little while, and in time he emerges to join his children, the astonishing Centaurs, liminal beings suspended between gods, clouds, beasts, and earth. These hybrids in turn mate with Satyrs and other hybrids, and so on and so on, each generation of Ixion’s grandchildren more complex than the last, until there are no real boundaries among the species, life consists of life, nature of nature, and, to quote Bataille, “every animal is in the world like water in water.”

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And Zero at the Bone

September 11, 2009

snakes

My first book of snakes did not inform me of Medusa and her serpentine hair. But all such amalgams, with their heads sprouting snakes, feet ending in hooves, shoulders sprouting wings, and so on, are too deeply submerged in archetype for science. They call us instead to a different kind of insight, the hard-to-remember truth of our root animal glory. Still, with each of these aforementioned manimals, along with angels, centaurs, mermaids, werewolves, gill men, et al., the admixture seems tentative, conceptually stingy.

I feel in myself, and want to physically conjure in myself, a more generous division, as in the chimera (lion-goat-snake) or the fenghuang (rooster-swallow-snake-goose-tortoise-stag-fish). “Full fathom five thy father lies,/Of his bones are coral made/Those are pearls that were his eyes.” So sings Ariel and the song,  if  continued, might lead toward a marine Arcimboldo, and then toward me, toward personal bones of coral (alive at night with polyps), eyes of pearl and oyster, heart of pulsing jellyfish, sea snake intestines, lungfish lungs, lobster hands and, for a brain, the wise octopus, with his tentacles for hair. Assembled, we will rhythmically drift in the shallows, separate a little, gather, separate, over and over, until the last sigh, and last dispersal.