Self-Harm

Odilon Redon, Drowned Man, 1887

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Four Chapter 4

Low over the bank of earth they ramble, slender, fleshy, needle-like leaves, flashing clusters of tiny crimson buds on dark red bracts. Cracks and fissures run through fragments of fallen bark; from a patch of dry mud, lengths of filament stretch out. Fǣringa! A shock of talons leaps out of the earth, black limbs articulate doom! From coxa to tarsus their movements mesh, until in the grapnel of the spider’s embrace the cicada is clenched. Serrated claws press into the abdomen of the insect; fangs snap out of their groove. Hail! Into the head, between the eyes, fangs sink as venom flows: Into your skin, just below the elbow, you guide the razor blade. Down through dermis and epidermis, down past the capillaries to the dominion of pain, you press the bright steel flake. Around the burning edge a shimmering bead wells up; down the whiteness of your forearm you draw the mesmerizing red. Lifting open a secret trapdoor, the spider enters its burrow; as blood flows in rivulets across your skin, the predator descends with its prey. I stare into the tumult in your eyes; you bring your fingers to my lips. How do we measure the distance between God and man? Twenty-two finger-breadths make the universe: The cubit of your forearm bridges heaven and earth.

Odilon Redon, Dream, 1898

Odilon Redon, Spider, 1887

Fǣringa! The capture spiral stretches and retracts: A creature sways in the spider’s web. Sitting at the centre, her legs resting on the radial threads, the spider feels the tremors of her struggling prey. She pulls on the spokes, reading the signals: In the cockcrow hour of the orb, a flickering brightness of flame. The spider approaches the butterfly: Come, into the underworld I will conduct thee. From her spinnerets she pulls a silken shroud and wraps the wandering soul in sleep: Blood from your spleen bangs in your brain for answers that do not come; barren on your tongue, earth dulls your syllables. How can I get it into my head that you’re dead? That your death is irreversible? How can I exist if you don’t? I’d always slept on my stomach in freefall: Now I sleep all curled up and fetal. Fǣringa! The spider vomits digestive juices onto the body of the butterfly: You draw the blade through a wilderness of pain, cutting right to the heartroot. Lush and bright the blood comes, flowing down your forearm. Sharp and focused, the burn of the pain unburdens you of the weight of your feelings.