Poem: Serpentine – Elizabeth Gibson
Elizabeth Gibson was announced as a New North Poet at the 2017 Northern Writers’ Awards. She is a Masters student at the University of Manchester whose work has appeared in magazines such as In The Red, Cake, Antiphon and Gigantic Sequins. She edits Foxglove Journal and the Word Life section of Now Then Manchester.
How lambasted you have been throughout history,
the one who got us thrown out of paradise. In the
hair of Medusa you squirmed, trapped and bored,
waiting to strike or be hacked away. Did you ever
crave a free body, waxy wings? A generation read
Potter, and saw you as the enemy, squirming in the
green shadows while the lion roared red and gold;
children of another land and time will remember a
little blond boy in the desert whose gentle life was
ended by that one, swift bite. You are the long one,
the deaf one, the legless and fanged. You are the
biter, the fighter, the strangler and suffocator. It is
you that hisses like the wind from another, darker
world, like the swing of a scythe, a gasp of doom.
Why, then, do I love you?
You are the quiet one, the kind one, patient and
meek. You are smooth and light, and you wrap
around me with a sigh so potent it masks all the
talk. You are deaf, but you listen, every inch of
flesh tuned in. Your body is a mosaic of history
and geography and science, each scale telling its
own bright story. You move as a pink dancer, a
blue river, lightning that is yellow and gold and
black. You sneak up on me when I least expect it,
tempt me with joy. You are not always venomous.
Occasionally your mouth is laced with cotton, so
bad, but so sweet, but mostly when you bite it is
less exciting. Sometimes you melt for me, your
ghost-skin slipping away, tiny tiles white as snow.