“The Lamia” (1909, oil on canvas)
by Herbert James Draper
“It’s none of my business but you must have done something very special
to make a man remember you so” ~ Michelene Wandor, from “Eve to Lilith”
Thursday night. Partly cloudy and cold, 47 degrees.
I’ve been reading a lot lately, two books yesterday after Olivia left. I just couldn’t sleep. But I’ve also been pondering some mythology, specifically that surrounding Sybil and Lilith. Don’t ask me why those in particular because I have no idea. Anyway, a poem began to come to me during the night, and thankfully, I was able to recall at least the subject of it, which is better than what happened the other night when I thought of the start of a poem but could remember nothing upon waking.
“Lilith” (1892, oil on canvas)
by John Collier
Interesting aside: In a dream a few nights ago, my mother came to me and said that she was glad that I was writing again. The bitter irony is that my mother never read anything that I have written, with the exception of a few poems written as a child. She never expressed any interest, and I suppose I never felt I could share. So the dream was bittersweet.
Moving right along . . . following is my take on Lilith, based in part on the common stories, including this particular passage:
Much to their surprise they found the cellar furnishing in perfect condition: none seemed to have aged at all. They were worthy of a place in a palace, and especially valuable was a mirror with an ornate gold frame, which in itself was worth far more than they had paid for the house.
The wife brought the mirror and all of the fine furnishings in the cellar to her own home and proudly displayed it. She hung the mirror in the room of their daughter, who was a dark-haired coquette. The girl glanced at herself in the mirror all the time, and in this way she was drawn into Lilith’s web/
For that mirror had hung in the the den of demons, and a daughter of Lilith had made her home there. And when the mirror was taken from the haunted house, the demoness came with it. For every mirror is a gateway to the Other World and leads directly to Lilith’s cave. That is the cave Lilith went to when she abandoned Adam and the Garden of Eden for all time, the cave where she sported with her demon lovers. From these unions multitudes of demons were born, who flocked from that cave and infiltrated the world. And when they want to return, they simply enter the nearest mirror. That is why it is said that Lilith makes her home in every mirror.
From “Lilith’s Cave,” as found in Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, edited by Howard Schwartz
You do know, don’t you, that she never replaced you?
I mean, how could she? For all of the places where
you are dark and death, she is light
and life, the mother of all things,
and totally and completely
predictable. No one has ever said as much about you,
you spurner of god and angels alike,
and while I pretended to want the second one,
the helpmate, what I really wanted
was just one more good fight with you.
and when I heard them call you the mother of all demons,
I will admit it made me smile—inwardly, of course,
now that I’m on probation, kicked out of paradise
because of fruit, if you can believe it. I mean,
the utter smallness of it all. Had it been you?
You would have never risen to the bait,
too smart by half, with those eyes that see everything,
every little fissure in my composure,
all of the pitfalls of living in a place
that has nothing but grace.
I will say it, to you alone: It gets old.
I thought about colluding with the antelopes,
hiding among the herds,
a possible way to escape the sameness,
but they had heard about what was going down
from the lemur, that rat-faced bastard, so they hemmed:
Adam, we like you and your wife, but
we want to keep this gig for a while, you know,
avoid that whole being hunted thing. It’s all good,
right? What a bunch of posers.
Do they actually think that they are fooling me?
But, truthfully, what could I say? It was good,
too good, too boringly, stultifyingly good.
And then we were evicted, no let’s
work on this, no thirty day warning,
and she just kept saying, I’m Sorry,
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I never
would have taken that apple if I’d known,
and you know me, Mr. Male Pride,
I wouldn’t budge, couldn’t forgive.
I just wanted to scream at her,
Leave me alone for a while, would you?
Go talk to the serpent over there,
the one who gifted you knowledge.
Not much use now, eh? Miss Knowledge?
Yes, I know. You have said it before,
told me that I cannot, will not
admit fault, remember only what
I choose to place into history’s books—her mistake
her problem, my feelings, my wounds . . .
me, me, me.
I, I, I.
Sorry. You probably don’t want to hear about her
any more than she can stand to hear about you.
She cried for days after I commented
on how good you looked in the Draper portrait
you sat for. Striking and sensual, I said.
That screech owl, she said. The irony
is not lost on me. Neither is the fact
that she abhors mirrors, cloaks them
in black, as if that will alter
anything at all. Hardly.
Lately, though I have been thinking
that perhaps you were right,
you know, about changing places once in a while,
positions? Trying a few new things?
It may have been a pleasant interlude
from the predictable, the god-awful banality
of everyday life—the same thing,
day after day, not that I’ll ever know now.
By the way, I heard about what they did to you,
trying to make you return, to get you to behave.
Honestly, though? I knew better.
You? Obeying anyone? Never happen, I said.
Tried to remind them
that you were made of such serious dust,
but Sammengelof wouldn’t hear it,
a bloody sycophant when it comes to the boss.
But I never believed they would succeed.
And then when he returned without you,
he tried to pretty the lie,
mumbled something about
Lamia laying down and finding rest.
But his two companions, Senoi and Sansenoi?
You could tell by the looks on their faces
that Sam had gotten it all wrong.
You were never going to give up what you had,
go back to being a housewife,
and I must admit, I’m beginning
to understand that better now
given the recent changes in my circumstances.
Anyway, I just wanted to drop a line,
see how things are at the Red Sea, see
if you managed to make it work
with Samael (you and
the angelic Sams, a bit wicked, that).
I know. I lost the right to inquire
long ago when I ratted you out. You
never could abide a blabberer,
But hey, distance and time? Perspective?
Ironic, huh? But I think I finally appreciate
what you tried to tell me.
Maybe one day you could, you know,
write or text, or even call? Of course,
I don’t know that I would get the message.
We’re still on the move, told the neighbors
we were downsizing, looking for something
with a little less upkeep, and besides,
she is even more clingy now that everyone
can see her for what she is.
It’s so damned tiresome, but
I am the one who asked for her . . .
C’est la vie, as they say. At least I’m not
still walking around with a face
on the back of my head. Damned awkward that was.
Take care. Don’t forget
to watch out for the amulets.
Wishing you were here,
December 4, 2014
Music by The Civil Wars, “Pressing Flowers”