Snakes

by meem

If music affects snakes, it is not on account of the spiritual notions it offers them, but because snakes are long and coil their length upon the earth, because their bodies touch the earth at almost every point; and because the musical vibrations which are communicated to the earth affect them like a very subtle, very long massage; and I propose to treat the spectators like the snakecharmer’s subjects and conduct them by means of their organisms to an apprehension of the subtlest notions.

-- Antonin Artaud, The Theater and its Double, trans. Victor Corti (London: Alma Classics, 2010), 81.


Today I will be a snake. I have nowhere to go, but today I will travel. As if my belly were a tongue, I will trace distance with my landscape-loving spine. 


I will be a peel of earth and windy hair on rock. Footsteps will be boot-booms and they will jolt me like I’m at the club; tasty terror but I will not tremble. 


Today I will hear the dark voices of planets. And as the planets caress me with fingerless hands, I will understand the contact of music. I will be vacant like nervous cartilage as my organs defy themselves. Yours will do this too, be careful. Or, if you will not be careful, then be patiently reckless. 


Actually, I will have mistaken the voices of planets for my own vicious singing. I am the brutality of ship-wrecking sirens in my own seas and caverns. I am fatal sea-cave music in my own corners. 


I find myself missing my eyes even though I haven’t been blinded for decades. I find myself aching to want empty things even though I have never gone hungry. I find myself watching behind my own head in reflections in red wine in glasses. 


The sea is watching. It is expressive of between-moments, a horrid ambivalence and disregard for time. It is horrible how life is bent into lines, all because Time makes herself Hot and Magnificent. Sirens break apart the lifeline with their sensational pitches like everlasting whippets, draining the organism of the quintessential, priceless desire for air. 


Waves have no concern for the snakes they behold. Disintegrating sailors contribute to the stream, their musical blood an art and a long awaited playmate for the unforgiving salt. 


Somewhere between land and sea, we are presented with two mandatory companions. One demands certainty, he’s not doing too well, poor fellow, authority rots him and he is tipping over. The other companion dislikes the fixed clarity with which the first compulsively occupies himself. And yet even he who despises the certain cannot withstand the indifference of the possible. I’m afraid. We are not important enough to deny our inadequacy: that we are too weak to confront our own delicious failure and its fantastic cruelty.  


Though I borrow a stolen story, I am visited by these companions quite often. I borrow fantastic cruelty too, for if I do not invite her to my banquet she will claim my soul as a snack and I need my soul for homework. 


The sea is more opinionated than other reflective surfaces. It promises depth and defies it’s cousin, the mirror (married into the family). Mirrors and eyes are attracted to each other like dreadful hollywood romance. So of course they are inclined to lie to one another and to us. 


The sea understands that the point is never to mirror, the point is to look. The point is to face unknowability in unending blankets, to react to the void-quilts and apprehend their stitches and mimic their seams. The point of mimesis is to deterritorialize pointing; it is enunciation of the hand that has no message, direction severed from intention. 


Water hardly ever points and water never imitates. It may sharply suggest edges, but the edges are irresistibly malleable. Such edges tend to break the self-importance of man in his fragile dance of repeated steps. The dance is always land-assuming so it quickly falls apart. It is much better to imitate seams over and over again until the stitching no longer ties things together; a frenzy of friendly threads that wiggle. It will happen to the stitches of unknowability and their poor machine seamstresses. 


Oh dear seamstress of the sea, if you piece together swooning flakes of disobedient water with the hope that it will make the sky more comprehensible, you will quickly unravel yourself and your sewing project. And since you equip yourself with needles, not oars, you will soon slip under indistinguishable waves or clouds, whichever you prefer. Ultimately, they are the same since neither can resist the wind. The distinction between sky and sea was a comfort you had not recognized before they joined and you expanded like threads of molasses, one of the most reluctant liquids. 


Today the seamstress will become a snake. Both of us will be snakes and discovering. We will climb formless trees and flaunt our newly discovered water-spines to the dripping and disinterested heavens below us. Our skin will be dull and our bellies outrageous, expanding, breathing, washed in vibration as water hums what it sees, which is only the sky. 


Snake people had holes, entrances to the body of the Earth Serpent; they followed the Serpent’s way, identified with the Serpent deity, with the mouth, both the eater and the eaten. The destiny of humankind is to be devoured by the Serpent.

-- Gloria Anzaldúa, "Entering into the Serpent." In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Third Edition. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987: 47-61.