skins upon skins

i went back to ‘Persephone’s prayer flag‘, which was really her skin and mulled over snake skins for awhile.  here was the original prayer flag poem:

she of the serpents stays among the trees curled in the moss
unwilling to leave
watched anxiously from afar
by her wayward donkey
and careful eyes of her human companions (human? if a horned woman is thus so)
who know so little of her (although the horned woman knows more but says little)
their beloved buried in sifted bone too deep to reach
only faith to push them forward

she has changed
her garments shredded as a snake would shed its skin
the neat blouse in tatters the skirt petticoat flutters in petals
no boots but somewhere she has acquired thin slippers of skin

she will rise and return to the place of her dance
followed by her donkey unwillingly but pulled by an invisible cord
she sifts through dust to find
a snake skin of red in the fading sun
which she lifts in two hands for it is long so long to be a garment of her own
and on it inscribed in ancient language the flick of a tongue a serpent’s grace

she hangs it in the place of the prayer flags
for it is a prayer flag of her body
the wind takes it the sun for a moment
blazes through it blood red and the writing writhes in silver for an instant
if one is watching closely

so that was a good start but i needed to incorporate my own experiences and that was my epiphany of sorts.

i, like the serpents, have had many skins, and shed them…out of necessity, from duress, from battles, to be given to others.  Some skins have been more comfortable than others and i have worn them for years.  others i have worn for mere months before they’ve been tattered and torn or i have been so uncomfortable in them that i’ve shrugged them free as if burned by their touch and handed them off to someone for whom they are more comfortable.

each time, however, a new skin forms, tentative and new at first, needing extra care and protection.  sometimes the growth rate is phenomenally fast and the skin almost exactly the same as the one previous.  the mother skins were like that.  and those were precious, when shed, even as ripped and dirty as they were.  i passed each one on, a gift, to a sister or sister-in-law or precious friend.

one skin was abused and used so harshly that once i shed it my skin underneath was raw.  i could do nothing with that skin.  it could not be given away, it could not even be given in tribute.  i have it carefully stored away wrapped in a silk scarf, resting.  i feel that it deserves the care and rest as if it were an ancient silk garment that was shattering to dust before my eyes.

several have been burned in tribute to Hestia, to honor those who helped develop them, to honor those who would help develop the new ones.  the bits and shreds i lay on the fire and they were lifted in the updrafts, carried into the night sky against stars.

one or two i have left to the forest or to the earth to give back what i have taken.  those have been the easiest to let go.  i let one slide off my shoulders and it slips to the ground without catching or tearing.  i move to lay it where i think it should go, but before i can stoop to pick it up, the earth has gently accepted the gift and it is soaked into the soil, no traces left to be seen.

two have been so wrought with emotion that they cannot be given as gifts to others, lest they tear apart hearts already in peril.  those i left to the wind.  i stood on a hill, each time, cradling them gently, for they had suffered so much, and then let them go to twist and turn rising higher and higher in the sky until i was unable to see them.

the skin i have now i have had for quite a while.  i think its importance has made it last, and it is created from a thicker, more durable material this time.  sturdy, but soft, warm but airy, it does not shred and seems to shed dirt, keeping me from the harm of germs.  it is bolstered by the love, thoughts and prayers of hundreds, which keep it clean and repaired.  and my own heart, shed of much of its anger, angst and frustration, provides additional layers from within.

i believe this to be my last skin.  it is of changeable colors, depending on the healing necessary and the love that seeps from my heart to reach whomever needs it.  today it is of pinks and purples.  it has been depleted slightly by a great aunt and a great friend both of whom have entered comas, and my mind and heart goes along to keep them company,  and will remain with them until they cross into the clearing.  it has been depleted by the need to focus on internal healing and hope, although more and more, the cancer becomes a nuisance not a life consuming illness.

there will come a time when i will shed this skin.   i will give it to Hestia to do with it what she will.  she may bestow it upon some who needs it, she may take it in tribute, but it will be hers.  and my new skin?  it will be ready for what awaits me in the earth for i am but a child of this earth and will return to it gladly.


9 responses

  1. I’m speechless. Your writing always transports me but this piece is so profound I need to reflect on it more deeply. It’s beautiful and moving.

  2. I agree with Suzanne. There is much to ponder here. A quietly powerful piece.

  3. This piece hits a place deep inside me that I didn’t know existed. It definitely is one to be pondered.

    Senua, I have so missed you. I feel blessed to have seen your words once again.


  4. such a privilege to know you, more so to read these words, such a gift to us all, thank you 🙂

  5. This is so stunning…I can only echo the words of others…I am speechless at the images you have so deftly wrought…

  6. I just re-read this and am stunned once again. It is so profound and will stay with me a long time I’m sure. The imagery you have used is so potent.

    Your idea of shedding skins reaches into my mind and helps me understand the (not nearly so poetic or profound) processes I’m going through at present.

    1. i’m glad it affected you the way it affected me. once i started writing, i realized how accurate the idea was for me. i think back now at times when i think i had no skin at all for a time…how terrifying that was.

  7. This is a very moving piece of work Senua. As I read I thought of the many skins I have shed, not the least of which has been the skin I have been shedding this past week as I prepare to close the door on a large part of my life and see how I go reinventing myself. In many ways this forms the basis for work that would fill a journal.

  8. what powerful writing! Beautifully done. Last fall I found a snakeskin in my outdoor shed, gently hanging from the corner of a box which must have been used in the process of shedding. It was a longer and bigger skin then I wanted to see, but beautiful none the less. Happy to say I never found that snake.

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