Archive for September, 2014

Sedna’s Digital Diaspora

September 21, 2014


The nature of a legend oft retold –
graphic details surface first

Past polar bears cavorting with walrus partners
beyond a sentinel herd of musk oxen
near a pair of antler-tangled elk –
I discover a disparate grouping
of mermaids – stone and bone

At the first Inuit sculpture gallery I visit
they dive –  swim – breach –
in anoraks or robustly naked –
twists of tail and wet green hair
voluptuous polished serpentine
raven steatite or walrus ivory

I am curious about their take
on my Sorrentine sisters –
neither sweetly Hans Christian Andersonian
nor seductively Homeric and considerably more ample
than those lithe Waterhouseian nymphs

But Arctic carvers and their legends
are represented here
by une tres chic Quebecoise sales model
in spear-sharp heels – eager to illuminate:

(This is where versions diverge)

    “Zee mermaid goddess is called Sedna
    who refuses so many of her father-god’s
    choices for a groom for marriage
    and when daddy is getting fed up
    and he tries to pitch her overboard into the sea
    then she then holds tightly to his kayak –
    and so – zoot! he chops every fingers off.”

She recounts this wringing her slim hands
worked at the tips in a frenzy
of manicured scarlet enamel tipped in curlicued gold

In the next gallery I greet a Sedna
to the delight of the sales agent
who tosses voluminous sheaves
of highlighted tresses in cult collusion –
twirling a sleekly conditioned lock to confide:

    “When Sedna is angry at everybody?
    she totally prevents all the sea animals –
    who are like – way controlled by her –
    from being caught by hunters?
    So she traps them in her hair
    which is completely all messed up and tangled up?
    The Shaman has got to change himself
    into some kind of fish and swim down to her
     in the underworld with all these scary dangers?
    So that he can comb and braid her hair
    to her calm her down – you know –
    since all her fingers are sliced off
    and no way can she do it herself.”

Later in side-street gallery perched between two auberge
a petite attendant swoops forward and chirps:

   “Sedna was giantess whose arranged groom
    was a bird disguised as a man.
    He promised abundance but could catch only fish –
    soon weary of the meager menu
    Sedna appealed to her father who killed the sham man.
    But when they both tried to escape bird-island
    in revenge a bird-flock swarmed their kayak causing a storm
    In her father’s haste to save himself he jettisoned Sedna –
    who maintained her grip on edge
    until he hacked off all her fingers. ”

In a fourth – most luxurious gallery –
now au Haute-ville Quebec –
flaunting an extensive menagerie
of lavishly polished – meticulously spotlighted
painstakingly catalogued creatures – animals – gods – spirits –
the grande dame host
domed by an inch of silver white spiky tufts
resplendently swathed in chiffon and jewelry intones:

    “Each one of Sedna’s severed fingers
    transformed into different type of sea creature –
    Seal – walrus – whale – salmon
    and to this day she controls – by temper whim or spite
    whether the people will feast  – or famine –
    be illuminated by oil through twenty hour nights –
    stay warm under furs – or perish without!”

Her lacuna eyes glint with the cold fire
of absolute power over life and death
as she twists jewel studded rings over grasping digits
gnarled – yet somehow intact

Gemma      9 – 16 – 14