And Zero at the Bone

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.

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