The electric moon

Just call me Medusa

And then her head exploded
Into a slithering coil of eels
Charged hot and nervous
With mislaid energy
Amid the viral pause of the planet

The old order tumbles out of her body
In layers of opaque feelings
Plants push through
Buds taste the grey air
Yet she cannot grow

Why has she come undone?
No cough, no one in the hospital
Just the cherished cat and a man’s imprint
To moor the isolated woman
Amid the dull waning of the moon

Life inside the pandemic is shaky for me. Sometimes things go along in a good rhythm and then something pokes through the veil. Sometimes it’s a big thing like relationship challenges, but the uncertainty also comes in unexpected rushes that are hard to pinpoint. Whaaat iiis thiis? Why am I suddenly grumpy and walking around pinching the mostly imaginary fat on my stomach? Being unable to name my tangle of feelings is one of the most difficult things in all of this.

I often feel like a loser for struggling because I’m not “doing it” with children, full-time partners, a job, parental care, or working on the front line. I’m also not “taking advantage” of the many Covid research opportunities that have been springing into my inbox for weeks. I don’t want to, and I’m not steady enough. Also, I can’t even figure out Zoom, so how could I possibly conduct a visual-virtual-digital project? It’s just me and Elliott, basically. “Just me” seems like an awful lot these days.

I have been encouraged to take up baking, get outside, meditate and move on, all of which is good advice. I try most of these things and then return to the solitary apartment. Writing has been my best friend through this. I know it’s not all fabulous, but it doesn’t need to be to be my medicine. I hear: it’s ok, we love you, I miss you.  I have so many beautiful people in my life who care for me, but when the normal channels of care- the body- are effectively de-limbed, the love doesn’t come through the same. We need love to survive, obviously, and this experience is really showing us that at the cellular level, where many of the decisions are made.

The image of a box of eels spilling out from my head came to me as I began yesterday’s afternoon nap. When I returned to the words later, my friend and lady of rage and power- Medusa- came to mind. I didn’t change “eels” to “snakes” in the poem though because I like the uneasy zeal of energy that comes with the electric eel. They’re aquatic survivors, like Medusa actually. A Wikipedia search taught me that Medusa is one of three sisters borne from a pair of ancient marine deities (who happen to be siblings, but that’s how they rolled).

The word “Medusa” means “guardian and protectress”, which I love knowing. Like many, if not all women in history and real life, our ideas about Medusa are spun through the uneven spinning wheel of gender that weaves the universal tale of women as wicked and wonderful. What I ALSO found fascinating were ALL of the lifeforms that are named after this mythical goddess. These scientific names span from the early days of modern science (1759) to just a few years ago, a thrilling example of how myth is science and vice versa. We’re really just peasants under it all, which I always find so reassuring.   

I’ve included the names here and some of the links work, but not all. What’s the best thing about this list? Each lifeform named after Medusa live and die in the water, from coral and molluscs to snakes and stalked jellyfish. The one exception to the aquatic theme is Caput medusae– the appearance of distended and engorged superficial epigastric veins, which radiate from the umbilicus across the abdomen. The name caput medusae (Latin for “head of Medusa”) originates from the apparent similarity to Medusa‘s head, which had venomous snakes in place of hair.

Medusa is honoured in the following scientific names (SEE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medusa):