Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Rocks, The Snake and The Wheel

The Rocks, The Snake And The Wheel
a Jungian Triptych


These rocks are a tension
between earth and sky,
thrown abrupt against
unconscious blue,
an impulse of fire
cooled in the plunge of time.

They spoke a wheel hooped thru
a linked-inkling labyrinth
where bodies are boundaries
of what survives,
a collective of cells primitive as flint,
frail as the ash of last night's fire.

The rocks are mounded as flesh
on a woman's rib, precise as
arrows piercing the deflected sky,
a bow that grows from its string.

First we make a name,
then a story,
then a soul.


Under the spinning
the flight featherless
the long glide down
from the first tree
the dreamt garden
oscillating the golden
penumbra of perception
where Snake found his tongue,
where the fruit grew sweeter
the longer it hung,

something made him wake
to hate the two that were one,
whole and disguised in the body of light,
singing ragged aubades to the forgetting sun.
Something made the snake

bring the black limit, 
the evasion of night
the cryptic jump, 
Desire the fetish,
obsession for Knowing
as if it weren't right.

So the rock split to center, 
one became two  forever.
Go dancer, celebrant,  vessel,
come mender,
scrubwoman, shuffler 
of cards,

losing the shape
and even the name
 in sweat, blood and pain.


Snake's  in the tree,
you can hear him whistle
his whole lithe length in control,
swinging out darkness,
his bite bringing dreams.

There's a dry stiff scale
shed at the crossroads,
a  fang cast like a horseshoe,
its half-circle hollow
for the poison to follow.
There's a trail in the dustworks
of a rabbit-poor summer, a lion
in shadow, a witch in the woods.

There's a snake in the matrix.
You can hear him sighing
where the fruit hangs low
its faint scent a pulse
in the wind at the threshold
of all that will come:

a woman screaming, a baby crying
a man dangling forever
slaved to the wheel.

~March 2014

posted for      real toads
Challenge: Get Listed: Mind and Symbol
I have the fun of hosting this word list challenge today, based on words drawn from the first chapter of Man and His Symbols, by C.G. Jung. For full details and all the words, check out the link above to real toads. I have made use of a form introduced to us by Kerry O'Connor called the triptych, which emulates the concept of a triptych in the visual arts, a three-panel painting where each panel forms one third of the picture, exploring different views or details of the same subject.

Top Image: Red Hills, Lake George, by Georgia O'Keefe
May be protected by copyright. Posted under fair use guidelines.
Center Image: The Snake Charmer, 1907, by Henri Rousseau, Public Domain
Footer Image: Adam and Eve, 1533, by Lucas Crannoch The Elder,Public Domain 
All via


  1. well done the first one i like the spoke a wheeled hoop/labyrinth/body boundaries...the little break out verses at the end of each section really center this nicely...the name/story/soul cycle in the first one...the last one is def the most vivid and full of imagery of the toil we will have in the after....when we play with the stiff snake of the low hanging your tag...snake in the lass...smiles.

  2. Stunning visuals and story Hedge ~ I like the unfolding from the rocks moulded as flesh in woman's flesh, to the snake's awakening in the matrix, and pulsing scent for all things to come ~

    "Slaved to the wheel" - you leave me with much to ponder ~ Thank you for the challenging prompt ~


  3. I am always excited at the chance to read one of your triptych style poems. And this is so brilliantly put together - each section a whole and a part of a greater whole. Then the additional 3 conclusions make up another poem within a poem. Just fabulous work, and something to take from each part.

    I guess all matters of the psyche must go back to that first story, the Eden in which human consciousness was born.

    Something made the snake... This one line is the key to it all.

    1. Thank you, Kerry. I haven't used this form a lot, but it really seemed appropriate to what I was writing and thinking about. As with so many things I've learned about the art of writing at the Imaginary Garden, I owe that to you and to the way you always challenge us to excel.

  4. Your word list, and now your poem too, have both put me in mind of the great choral work Carmina Burana, the lyrics of which are based on ancient poems and songs. I can't get that fire wheel of Fortune out of my mind, that turns and turns, turning the world, us and all in it within the other wheels of the cosmos.

    It's interesting to me that Jung cites stones as symbols of the self. Since I've never read Jung, I'm supposing that what he calls a "self" is related to the soul, thus very ancient and connected to the cosmos? I tend to think of the self as protean and fluid, and the soul as something deeper and connected. Anyway, I can't think of a better way to begin thinking about these things than with your great word list challenge, the images you've provided and your poem, so thank you.

    The Garden of Eden myth truly is one of the most fascinating and enduring of myths (I like your "rocks are mounded as flesh on a woman's rib"). Somewhere far far back in the mists of time, I can't help but think we were like the other animals in the cosmos (like "water in water" as Bataille put it), and whether through gradual changes, quick climactic ones, or a combination of both, we came to "know" our separateness, its unbearable truth as well as its unbearable lie. We have carried that wound for thousands of years, and much of what we do -- both fucked up and beautiful -- are attempts to heal it. It defines our humanity.

    1. I agree--I'm sure that separation is at the root of that myth, where we suddenly understood we could die, knew that immediate sense of terrifying mortality that other animals forever live without in an innocence that seems like Paradise, and so saw we were irrevocably different than them, isolated by knowledge. (That's, of course, despite all the invidious sexual hang-ups that ended up tied to it instead.)

      Afa the Self/Soul, I am no expert on Jung or psychoanalysis, but I think the stone comes into it all as a symbol of something unified, whole, fully an example of 'it is what it is,' hence a Self that had worked through the fluid and contradictory stages to something evolved, more or less finished, ie, what it was meant to be.

      I know he felt strongly that we were fragmented beings, and that humans could not be sane without a spiritual life, or integrating the Soul you describe, the drinker at that deep well he called the unconscious, which has all the waters of past history,nature, myth, mystery and the great Unknown all floating around in it, that can bring blessings or mania. Bringing that into harmony with the rational mind to produce something balanced and whole was at the root of fixing what was broken in the mental workings, that the mind could come to lean on the Soul for spiritual sustenance, and the Soul could have the protection of a vital mind to lead the two. I think your description of Self is perhaps like the psychological concept of Ego, and part of what is supposed to happen in 'individuation' (or psychic growth into self-knowledge) is that the ego becomes a positive force of a realized identity instead of a peripatetic traveler that may take us into places both good and very bad. But I am talking out of my hat mostly, with my own thoughts rather than Jung's. ;_)

      Your image of the wheel will be with me a long while, I think. Thanks for your generous and insightful reading, and for participating, Mark.

  5. wow, wow. yes, something made the snake. this is deep and wide, and begs pondering and re-reading (which I will do). wonderful!

  6. "frail as the ash of last night's fire." That is just SO gorgeous. The whole thing is beautifully crafted and more than enough to make me want to send all of my work to the nearest shredder.

    At this rate, I'm never going to be able to donate to Locks of Love.

    1. I know what you mean. You couldn't make a wig for a mouse with what I have left. ;_) Thanks, MZ.

  7. I cold go on and on here....first of all you never cease to amaze me. There such brilliance in this. "There's a snake in the matrix.
    You can hear him sighing
    where the fruit hangs low" That is just one tiny part of so much I love about this. Sigh,,,I wish I could write like this.

    1. Susie, I'm an old woman--I've been writing a long long time. You have written plenty of poems which I could say the same thing about--never doubt yourself. Thanks, though, for the very kind words.

  8. Brilliant! I now will slither away and start my poem over! I love all the elements, the endless tale of time-your poem paints the epic story-so well~ I too love, "There's a snake in the Matrix"

  9. What a fine triptych, a three-paneled panoply of the soul at work. In my reading of Jung I see him as an earnest anchorite trying to save Christ from his eventual Church. (There was that dream of his from boyhood where he saw a huge turd fall out of the sky onto the roof of the church where his father was minister.) He did it with his theories (Symbols of Transformation, but far better as a voyager back down into the Land of the Mothers. (Red Book) Spiritual growth is essential, but it can't happen without accepting the Devil's role in it, the necessity of the Snake in the garden. So the myth has to go deeper than the childlike sweetness of Eden. I loved the construction of these panels, each a myth hinged together by what each fails to complete.

    The first panel I took as the evolution of consciousness, the formation of a sturdy enough vessel into which psyche can distinguish itself (…bodies are boundaries / of what survives”) The ending triplet completes the first third of the charm (we must go widdershins, don’t we?), and each triplet is a hinging mechanism for the next work, that which keeps us wondering what the next poem will be …

    The second panel set in Eden is to me about the cell division of mind into an I and Thou – the identity of lover and beloved. Its addled (addered?) and bothered and bewitched and beguiled by the snake’s gift of carnal knowledge which weirdly is self knowledge, an awareness of separation that confounds the prior sense of self-completion. The snake’s “hate” here reminds me of Goethe’s Mephistopheles in “Faust Part 1”:

    I am a part of the part that first was all,
    part of the darkness which gave birth to light,
    that supercilious light which now disputes
    with Mother Night her ancient rank and space,
    and yet cannot succeed; no matter how it struggles,
    it sticks to matter and can't get free.
    light flows from substance, makes it beautiful;
    solids can check its path, so I hope it won't be long
    till light and the world-stuff are destroyed together.

    The snake is there to remind us that our wholeness depends upon our hole-ness, our separation, our lack … If we would be good Christians, I think Jung would assert here, we need our Devil as much as our Christ …

    Panel three is modernity to me, life after the Fall, not as pretty a place as before, not with the “snake in the matrix” throwing out lots with its horseshoe fang. But even so, we are fuller, more divine after than before because, simply, we Know … It’s not enough (evidence the final triplet), and that perhaps is good, because there are hinges in place to fasten to the next triptych of human becoming, which I hope has us becoming better animals again. Good, but not fun: I’ve come to believe that all spiritual growth sources in great pain. Lousy deal, perhaps, but we’re talking about a roadhouse where the human and divine both sin.

    Sorry to respond late to this, I didn't want to attempt a response in the whirl of my work-desk mind. One of your masterworks. The third panel is the most difficult and leaves many questions about the entire arc of Jung’s work—was it worth it? Which I wonder, too. It’s pre-work for some labor we’ve yet to fully name …

    1. Thanks for the in-depth reading, Brendan. You are both insightful and accurate in your interpretation (great quote for the Snake/Meph devil) and I bow to your deeper experience with Jung, who indeed, I have felt even in my limited readings, was concerned with God and Christianity as a positive force--proper Christ-like spirituality, not the fan club-- an essential glue in the reassembly of the whole person out of its fragmented, broken parts--one of the reasons why I chose this myth rather than one of Odin's or Ceridwen's or Manannan's.

      Despite being an atheist, I do share the belief that without the spirit self and its teachings, its breadth and its feeling, we are bankrupt, lost between the machine and the (to borrow your Sheba) 'red claw' aspect of nature, the brute of aggression, murder, scarlet violence. And yes,we need our devils, to show us the road to hell--how else do you ever find the way back to paradise, or at least, to keeping the Soul alive so that paradise(morphed and shaped and changed into something deeper than just that sweetness you mention) is a possibility?

      I also see him as someone who dove deeply to find the source of the poisons we are sickening from, down past the easy twisted reasonings of Freud(all that phallic nonsense, fine up to a point, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and Eddy-puss just another cautionary tale of many) to listen to the old voices, the eternal ones, that speak in dreams and oracles,in star-legends and signs and out of the mouths of animal-totems, mad gods and sane goddesses, all telling that most ambiguous of truths, that we are fatally flawed, yet we can succeed by knowing it. I also hope that this trail of psychic breadcrumbs will lead us on--it always has--to the next phase of realization where we may begin to grasp that we need the wholeness of this planet and ourselves more than we need, say...war and money.

      Thanks, B. both for the wonderful comment (well worth the wait, and I appreciate you waiting for a clear space to make it) and for the equally cool poem you wrote spontaneously--I spent two weeks with this one and was re-writing up till the last second. ;_)

  10. Rock, called out by gravity, and seeing bodies as boundaries, really pose the questions for me-- At what point do we know What we are? Who we are? Before, during, or after creation? As certain as your image-rich piece is, it brings me to the inevitable questions, as all good writing must. Your middle section outs emotions and desires with a clear ringing. the flight featherless grabbed me in your first lines and your "so the rock split to center" stanza in ll is a wonderfully effective pivoting. Section lll is the true charmer in this triptych, I think. It brings us straight to this day, to this dream, this reality, and these sharp questions concerning what the future holds. inspiring work, hedge.

  11. Hey Joy, This is a masterful poem, not only in its skill and scope, but because of the sense of authority you bring to your subject matter. It's quite a gift to be able to bring that kind of authority without grandiosity, but you've kept a kind of simplicity of tone, combined with an intriguing complexity of imagery, that easily avoids that danger. All three of the panels are very cool--I can't say I have a favorite, though I find the first pretty compelling. That stanza reminds me of that wonderful part of the Wasteland (perhaps because it is also about symbols) where Eliot talks of the rock and no water. Only here the rock is not quite so deserted feeling, but more primevil. There's a wonderful sense of cosmology here --beginnings that already suggest the wheel of the snake swallowing its tail which seems to come later--but love the hard primitive cells here, and the sky being deflective rather than the arrow--(the arrow feels also kind of greek to me, the beginning of the whole Trojan conflict but that is so cl ouded in my mind, I won't go there--) Oh--also really love that bit of the rock like the mounds of flesh about the woman's rib--a sense of early man buried beneath all that fresh-made rock.

    The second part is also very cool, with this very strong sense of the snake--I guess that's his tryptich--but there's a wonderful sensuality there where the low hung fruit is like the man's sex--sex in general--and that feeling of hate and schadenfreude so strong--and the end of that stanza just terrific==a great rag and bone shop sense there between the mender, scrubber, and the random relyer on fate--

    Now, wheel brings in a whole new element. I can't help but think of Samsara--that whole Hindu wheel of desire and suffering--but even more strongly - the cogwheels and factories of "Modern Times"." There's a feeling that the horse shoe will complete itself with poison to make a whole circle, and then I think too fo the snake swallowing itself as I mentioned above. I keep thinking too of that saintly kind of death--St. Catherine (of Alexandria?) --seems like they were always being sentenced to death on a wheel which would then exploder. But here the wheel is maybe not so rarified (or explosuive.) Seems more to have to do with drudgery--aka something you have to put your shoulder to.

    Anyway, all really well done. So glad I didn't read it before doing mine! Ha. Wonderful work. K. ps - I am on one of my infernal devices -- my own wheel so am afraid to fix typos. It also seems to have lost battery so much it posted my post as being done a day or so ago--so weird. Anyway--thanks much for prompt and inspiring poem.

    1. Thanks, k. Yes, the rocks are primevil, both in nature and that oart of us born into and from nature--I love that you caught the wheel-snake-swallowing-its-tail thing--and when i first reread it I too was reminded of Eliot for some reason--who knows where these breaths of others' come from, because I haven't been reading him--but he is pretty bedrock under my own personal wheel of poetry. (The ending tercet is meant to follow the biblical conclusion of the tale--women bringing forth babies in pain and travail, and men, instead of living easy off the fruit of paradise, having to make a living with the sweat of their brow--here the wheel= the machine.) Thanks so much for your thoughts and feedback--and kind words.

    2. Ah. I have to confess I didn't focus on childbirth at the end--Of course, that makes sense given the Edenic parallels, but my mind went to some D.H. Lawrencian Victorian kind of scene --with more of an abusive tenor--

      If you are interested and I don't know that they relate--these are the Eliot lines I was reminded of--Of course, it's a different feel, but they are just beautiful lines--and they bring up this elemental aspect of rock.

      If there were water 345
      And no rock
      If there were rock
      And also water
      And water
      A spring 350
      A pool among the rock
      If there were the sound of water only
      Not the cicada
      And dry grass singing
      But sound of water over a rock 355
      Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
      Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
      But there is no water,


    3. Ha--I'm sorry -- I took this from Bartleby and htey number the lines!!!

      like a 55.
      here's unnumbered. k.
      If there were water
      And no rock
      If there were rock
      And also water
      And water
      A spring
      A pool among the rock
      If there were the sound of water only
      Not the cicada
      And dry grass singing
      But sound of water over a rock
      Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
      Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
      But there is no water

    4. Thanks, k. (The numbers *were* a bit--distracting.:P )

      And now these really wonderful Eliot lines remind me of the Stevens' candle poem I have on my sidebar:
      Valley Candle

      My candle burned alone in an immense valley.
      Beams of the huge night converged upon it,
      Until the wind blew.
      Then beams of the huge night
      Converged upon its image,
      Until the wind blew.

      Modernist poets--I don't care what they say--they just do it for me. ;_)

  12. Ooo...Hedgewitch!!! A feast....ahhhmazing for certain. I love your challenge post...meaty indeed...steak knife material!

    I really connected with the rock garden picture and quote so your rock portions of this triptych epic poem really won me over big time!

    The entirety is so fluid with rich imagery and pulsing of archetypal depth. What a great write! Thank you.

  13. This one completely blew me away, I simply can't find the words to express how amazing this is.

  14. Oh my goodness, what a spectacular write! "where bodies are boundaries of what survives.....first we make a name, then a story, then a soul...." shivery brilliant writing!!!!

  15. I hope you will forgive me if I simply say that bible fairy tales would be much more interesting if you wrote them. You put such potent language into this and it fairly drips menace and ruin. I like! ;-)


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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