Thursday, 26 September 2013

Snaky Selkies

Selkie by PinkParasol

Strange thing. After my recent seal encounter and my poem about Selkies, I opened my book last night to discover the following.

This is an extract from Snake Ropes by Jess Richards, which was bought for me by Dad and Marilyn for my birthday earlier this year. I'll no doubt pop up a review once I've finished, but this just struck me:

Dry people live on dry land breathing dry air in dry homes. On land, they love fire. Their homes are full of fire and flakes of dry skin they can't even feel scratching off. Salt is for jars, for food, for preservative, while fish are sent away to the mainland to be eaten after they have been decayed, rotted, drowned in air.

The room with a candle lit is where the heart beats in each home. I have seen into the heart of every home on this island and taken things I want. Called a vision to me, and then the desire comes - to hold whatever I want, and make it mine. I am from the water, so my powers lie in fire. People believe me to be powerful, so I have become powerful.

Belief is an infectious disease.

No one would understand if I were to speak of how I miss the pull of the ocean's body. No one knows how it feels to have been something more instinctive, more vital.

They can see I am different, so they call me witch, but it is instinct that calls me, even on land. To become powerful, believe it, and others will follow. To fall into love: fall out of yourself. To become the best at anything: be the worst at something else. To feed others: starve. To punish: make some guilt.

On land, I still have traces on my body of the seal I was. The paleness of the moon reflects in my face. My hair is as black as a thickening of water. This land-mirror-beauty is nothing compared to the beauty in movement, in strength and power, the love and the ache in the wide black eyes of a seal. And yes, power. There's power in beauty, whether the woman wants to be beautiful, or not. Without my sealskin, I am trapped here being beautiful. Always searching, trying to find something more.

Something in one of these rooms shimmers at me. I see what I want, I take it. I go to their home when they are sleeping and steal it.

Then I don't want it anymore.

What is a diary, a letter, a child's toy, a box, a necklace, a coin or a flower when what I really want is my home. What good can come from the theft of someone's hope, their secrets or their love, someone's grief, when I can't get what I need?

Each night I dig the graveyard as if my hands have claws. How can this be allowed to happen, that dreams die down, rot among the corpses, to nothing? Look underneath the soil, where the roots hang down, tangled in bones. Where earth rains from my spade.

Out of the graveyard, buried among the dead, is my sealskin...

My sealskin was stolen when I was seventeen, washed up in a storm. The man called Bill found me. I fell out of my sealskin, and lay as a woman, trembling and naked on a rock on the shore. My sealskin lay beside me, though I didn't yet have the strength to climb back into it. He said my eyes were stars, my hair the night, my skin smooth as cream. Some such falseness. He couldn't see I would have been far more beautiful inside my sealskin, that the light from the sky bounced off the fur, that the curve of my back met the shape of the waves, that the surges and ripples of my muscles inside it could twist and turn my whole body spiralling through currents, into depths.

I reached for my sealskin. Bill's eyes burned me. He picked it up, said he'd take me to his home to recover, said that later he would help to get me back to the ocean again. My sealskin was soft and delicate, its fur dark and silver-tipped like glints on ice. He threw it over his shoulder. It was nothing to him, but when he carried me up the hill to his house, I stroked it on his shoulder with my fingertips.

I never saw it again.

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