A short account of Melusina

I am the builder, my hands flicker with the need to touch and shape and move, a magic that wants to make things in the world.

Give me two things and I will fuse them together, hammer them against each other; I will make you a house, a ship, a palace, a grave, I will plant each homeless root I find into willing, loving earth.

Siegfried loves me for this, needs me for this very part of me. Siegfried has aspirations, knows he is meant to be something better than what the present holds.

I don’t perceive time in such a way, I can’t, I am too many things at once for something like time to seem linear to me.

But I am willing to make, to give, to use the effervescence in my palms on things that Siegfried desires from life. I’ve made him many castles over time, each better than the last, and I keep doing so. Not all of my creations live up to what we both imagine, and so far none of them have kept him close to me for good.

The problem doesn’t lie with the castles; they are wonderful, I know they are, the things I make are rarely far from beautiful. The problem is what Siegfried uses them for: endless distractions, endless parties designed to get people to love him. After a while, I have to hide from the activity.

But when I hide, that’s when Siegfried sees me most clearly, sees that I carry too many selves inside me. “Can’t you just be a woman, Melusina,” he begs me, “Just be one thing and be it fully, that’s all I ask.”

*

Every seven years, like the snake who birthed her, Melusina goes into the waters and rubs and rubs her skin until it comes loose from her body and sheds itself, running off with the stream.

This is an ability given to many humans in many cultures, but in Melusina’s case this act turns her body translucent. In this state of transparency, she can assess the damage her body has taken in those seven years, that time during which she loved too much, and was loved badly in return.

She assesses the state of her muscular tissue cramped and cracked from holding on too tightly, her tired tendons and bones. Has anything become crooked or stale, are there burst capillaries or clumped veins, has anything been deformed or permanently blocked? How broken is her heart? Are her lungs spotted from the air she breathes? Has another untruth been dislodged from the basin where she keeps her fears and made its way half-way up her windpipe? Has her liver ceased to care for her? Is anything cracked and in need of mending? Are her nails so full of ridges that she cannot scratch them down a lover’s back without leaving their dust behind? Are the roots of her hair barely clinging to the surface anymore?

For the most part, Melusina’s fine, healthy still, but who knows, seven more years may reveal a very different body to the one she has now. 

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The Gorgon

The Gorgon’s aim is to fasten pleasant or important things to the layer of timelessness that exists beyond the flowing streams of time. She is a kind of archivist of life, she records her conversations with her friends, keeps boxes and shelves full of tapes in her basement. She keeps a log of her emotions in a large red notebook on her coffee table.

What the Gorgon fears most of all is ageing, the passing of time. She enjoys the arts of petrification, which momentarily pour time into an immobile form, pinning it in place. This is an illusion she delights in. The Gorgon is an amateur photographer, sometimes a sculptor. Her favourite material is sandstone, for its warmth and permeability. She likes the idea of water and air flowing through even those things that seem immune to the passage of time.

She takes pictures of everything around her, except herself, because she needs to think of herself as unbound to the laws of material existence. She knows that to be embodied means being subject to entropy; she, too, will one day have to disappear. This enrages the Gorgon to the point where she can’t sleep for days, lying fuming on her bed with only the snakes on her head for company.

The snakes themselves never sleep. They sense the Gorgon’s thoughts, while she cannot read theirs. She can’t communicate with the snakes beyond feeding them, and snapping her fingers angrily if one of them forgets itself and bites her hand. The Gorgon never forgets a bite, and she keeps tabs on each snake. 

Sometimes it upsets her that those snakes are closer to her thoughts than anyone else will ever be, those creatures whose only mode of response consists of twisting, snarling and hissing.

When the Gorgon feels something strongly, or has intense thoughts, the snakes hiss and shake in time with the contents of her mind. The Gorgon feels exposed, not because she worries about other people decoding her thoughts via the snakes’ interpretative dance, but because she knows she carries her emotions on her crown, so visibly it makes people uncomfortable. In order to learn more about her own thoughts, the Gorgon mounts cameras to her ceilings, and spends hours rewatching the tapes of the snakes’ dance, trying to read it like a language, but the snakes form too many crossing lines and the Gorgon gets too tired to make sense of their gyrations. 

In order to protect the people she likes, she wraps a band around the snakes and ties them together in a snapping bouquet behind her head. She carries an open rucksack full of mice so the snakes can feed themselves discreetly while the Gorgon socialises.

In general, it’s hard for her to meet new people, because right away she worries about their mortality. Getting close to anyone means needing to ask, “What if they disappear?” which is the way all things on earth must go. She is known to freeze any person she meets into a pillar of worries and first impressions.

She rarely ever relaxes, tells herself she doesn’t know how. But sometimes the light of day falls at an angle that feels absolute, the boiling inside her hushes, and her body feels covered in the thinnest layer of resin, keeping all of her contained where it belongs. In those moments the Gorgon, who in many ways is still so young, feels immortal, the way only those who have never experienced dying can.

The Green in Black

I look for the green tinge in the black paint. When it isn’t there, I know my eyes have adjusted, finally. I feel my hind legs straighten almost all the way, which is supposed to be a sign of something. Then there is the fur that comes out in clumps whenever I touch the skin underneath. Could the energy of it rupture something as sibling as these quick moments woven into one another?

*

The bonds between cells which the plant material releases are wet paint, never had a chance to harden, crushed beneath a stride.

*

There is no healing. Not for anyone in this world. The work of healing is distraction, an occupation like any other, towards an empty eventual fall, a failing, there is no healing, not from anything. There is the moment of being passed through by life, and there is chemistry, and there is the no-longer.

*

I reach into your solar plexus all the way up to my elbow, and I hear the gushing, when my arm comes out it is coated with mud, and the touch of the world dries the mud so quickly it pinches my skin like tiny slaps before it crackles and flakes off, dusting my feet.

*

So little in the grain of the table is free from association with the things I own as a girl, these thighs, the striation in the skin goes both ways, up-down-left-right, and then some associative, diagonal nonsense.

*

My teapot is somewhat green, my cup is black. There are other colours and tints in all of this, like silver and white, but those don’t blend in with previously written words.

*

I think of the fact that I’ve never liked drinking from straws, or sucking at those water bottles that come with nubs. I’ve not been fed by breasts that way, I’ve been fed by rubber, and I’ve had enough, I think, of all this sucking.

I’m hungry, not for the difficult pull that constricts the throat and makes eyes bulge, but for the wide gulp of liquid tumbling in, the flow inward, unconstricted, a fall the size of an apple, into the mouth open as a well.

*

I don’t close my eyes during daylight hours. There is too much that could be missed, and I still haven’t earned my passport to life, after all I have spent years not really partaking, feeling so separate that I was convinced I would never die. Now every beam is something to be soaked up, something to be put aside for later use. As you can tell, I still postpone, but at least I consider the world something to be partaken in, in whatever way I can.

*

Money can be thrown at objects and it places them into your hand, it’s like magic. Food can be put into the mouth, then ferried into the stomach, and from there into the blood. It’s amazing. I can drink and speak and hear and see. I don’t know what to do with any of what I take on, but I’ll take it, who am I to say no?

*

I leave the day with armfuls of objects and words and pictures and thoughts, and I arrange them around my body every night in bed just in case I don’t wake up, and this is my way of saving my family and friends the effort to decide what to put in my grave.

*

We are Egyptian still, never got over that side of ourselves, and we still surround our dead with things, and I surround myself to pretend I live, just like the dead wear sheets and makeup, because it is spooky to look at them with their bones so slack in their faces, looking loose like the earth that calls them home to it.

One

Let’s assume it is a myth that in order to start expressing yourself through any medium you first need something to say.

Let’s assume that content preceding form, identity preceding genesis, is bullshit. Let’s assume you think this way because what good is a myth to you now when you have never thought you had anything to say.

Not that you’ve spent 28 years not saying things, of course. You’ve spoken, and even written, plenty. Speaking and writing have been a vital part of many of those 28 years, most of which have been spent institutionalised – not in the madhouse sense, not in the clinical sense, but rather meaning your parents, both teachers in the 80s, got as much as three months to haul you from uterus to hospital room and from hospital room to their flat, after which they were expected to return to work, so your mother found
a lovely and convenient day-care centre where, from the age of three months, you spent five to six hours every day while your parents were at work, and you pretty much have been in school ever since.

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