February 2024

The Goddess as Active Listener
Part 5

Brian George

Massimo Campigli, Three Idols, 1961

When I remember Sue Castigliano, I think of almost naked dancers vaulting above the gold-tipped horns of Cretan bulls, to the sound of waves breaking in the distance. Wandering with the ghosts of an exploded island empire, I enter the doors of a library that I first thought was an octopus. When I think of her, I see wheat bound in sheaves, gourds hanging from a makeshift wooden peristyle, grapes being stomped by rhythmic feet in vats. I think of the minute preparations of a glad community in the month before a human sacrifice.

When I remember her, I think of a face that encompasses multitudes, whose each component is distinct, the dark face of the goddess, projected against lowering clouds. I think of Ceres, of Inanna, of Isis, of Coatlique, and of Oshun. I think of olive oil sleeping inside of prehistoric jars, the Sibyl smoothing out her wrinkles in the shadow of the arch of Constantine. I think of a young girl standing on a cliff above the sea, the wind playing with her hair, as she listens for the voice of her drowned lover.

Her body is the world tree. Her navel is Omphalos, the place of interconnection. Her womb is the cave where stars can get changed into their human suits. In her left palm Saturn, time’s comptroller, tilts and revolves. The fingers of her right hand touch the Earth with a gesture of abundance. And then, quite unexpectedly, she stands before me in a robe. In her eyes, I can see ships sailing back and forth. There, beneath the gigantic shadow of a wave, a wave that towers, still swelling, up and up, they go in search of a dock that is nonexistent.

Above our heads: a roof, whose beams have disappeared. There is only a charred corner. The shore is not far away. The astringent scent of salt is softened by the scent of moss and rosemary. “Beloved, come. Like fireflies, the ghosts of all past seers flicker in the dusk, where, if you hurry, you might catch one in a jar. Our fingers touching, like our
souls, by its light we will read an elegy on the metastasis of Rome, on the triumph of the Age of Iron, the last statement by a master who is called by some “Anonymous.” Upon your lips, my breath: the elixir by which your name will be alchemically removed.

“Many years have passed since the day that you were buried, facing east, with a luminous stone clutched tightly in your hand, with much to say that would never be expressed. It is reasonable that your knees should start to tremble and give out. A drum beats in the distance, in the labyrinth of your ear. My pulse suspends you. Are you dead, or are you not, or is there some third alternative?

“In my eyes, you can see your culture, falling. Do not dare to look
away! A slow spiral has returned you to this spot, and it will do so once again. You can even now feel how spaces open in your stomach, how your heart breaks with the ocean, how the sky reroutes the tangles of your nerves. And who is that small echo, now dancing on your tongue? As you fall into my eyes, you can even now feel how your thoughts are not your thoughts, how these thoughts belong to a figure that you lack the strength to recognize, how the wind sucks the marrow from your bones. There is more to fear than you know, but do not fear too much. We are free, in this silence, to calmly see and then celebrate the worst. Each throwing his/ her arms around the other, as the light fades, we will weep.”

This is the role that my teacher acted out for me. It is not, of course, who she was in her day-to-day-existence. In hindsight, my memory manufactures images, which, no doubt, obscure far more than they illuminate, and yet they point to something not entirely untrue.


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Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Brian George is the author of two books of essays and four books of poetry. His book of essays Masks of Origin: Regression in the Service of Omnipotence has just been published by Untimely Books at
https://untimelybooks.com/book/masks-of-origin. He has recently reactivated his blog, also called Masks of Origin at https://masksoforigin.blogspot.com/. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art, an exhibited artist and former teacher. He often tells people first discovering his work that his goal is not so much to be read as to be reread, and then lived with.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2024 Brian George
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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