by Steven Craig Hickman
Pygmalion and Galatea
I see the crack
the movement in the stone
the flesh, the flesh
a squinting eye
it’s a woman
at my touch
her foot escapes
my knees give way
my skin is pink
the rain upon my face
the scent of myrtle
i turn back
he turns to stone
Sometimes I like to go back and imagine just what was going on when the Proteus that is our brain suddenly taps me and reveals an image, a set of words, a sort of movement of sound and meaning, a momentary slice of that sea of data that we as temporary human agents, temporal stratifications of consciousness in transition suddenly receive messages from that abyss. We know from the partial confrontation with these processes of the brain through the neurosciences that we process data at 100herz, yet still work across trillions of bits per microsecond. If our conscious mind did not have that darkness and was exposed to all this data simultaneously we’d sit their stupefied unable to decide or even move. So we rely on what the brain filter’s out more than what there is in its massive storehouse. This is the semantic universe it has created over our evolutionary lifespan that has allowed the brain to communicate its decisions and its messages to this unknowing cloud of awareness in transition: consciousness. We still know so little of this marvelous mechanism, yet what little we know has allowed our species to construct worlds of meaning that rival the universe itself in complexity and amazement. Our civilizations are nothing else than heterotopias: constructed worlds of meaning that we inhabit as if they were real rather than fictions of our own thought processes to defend us against the alien worlds of life and forces that are this universe.
Poetry is one expression of this. I like to keep notes on poems, so will from time to time show after the fact how my thought processes reflect upon such dubious matters; for we truly never have access to the brain itself directly, but only by inference and illusion at best. But out of these illusions worlds have been born.
In this experiment I was trying to convey in as few words as possible the transition in voices between the male / female, a sort of seamless phase shift from one to the other without a marker or break, or any artificial interposition on the part of author, etc. Yet, still convey the figure of the iconic myth in its intent of metamorphosis of an object at once contingent and inevitable.
It all turns on the signal, the term between… “the rigidness” that is of neither gender and could be said by her or him… it lives in that ungendered space between the two forms that could mean:
early 15c., from Latin rigidus “hard, stiff, rough, severe,” from rigere “be stiff,” from PIE *reig-“stretch (tight), bind tightly, make fast” (cognates: Old Irish riag “torture,” Middle High German ric “band, string”). Related: Rigidly.
This sense of both death’s closure: stiffness as in corpse, roughness of stone as against softness of flesh, severity of the hammer as it tortures the stone releasing its immanent life, stretching the imaginal across the solidity as if wrapping it in a band, etc. Then the release from bondage to death, to the rigidity in “my knees gave way” exposes the female transition, the awakening to life and light…
And, then, the phase shift as he becomes passive, rigid, and stiff in the presence of such beauty becoming in turn what he always wanted: a transition into stone perfection at the hands of the goddess he himself was shaped by…
Of course this is the parody of the Pygmalion and Galatean mythos… it’s reversal in a Greek mode rather than the comic of George Bernard Shaw, etc.