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A letter to a friend, a conversation with a Serpent, a vision of the Songlines, and magic to bring one home again.

Rainbow Serpent by Marie Warren

Rainbow Serpent by Marie Warren

Dear S—-,

I thought of you. I was sitting with my Stav, who spoke to me in slithery syllables as He is want to do. It is colder now, wetter, steamy still in the north, but He is blackening now. Contracting, glistening still and always, but slowing, curling tighter against the cold. He seems old to me, but His fire eyes betray his hardening skin. Coals in the earth.

I thought of you.

“What does the Earth want?” I asked Him. To be walked upon, that is its purpose. The Sky aches for wind and wing, and so the Earth for turning, for growing things, for hoof and heel. “And the Sea? What does it want?” For sail and shore. He replied. For the things that swim. “It is lucky, then, that there should be so many companions for the elements.” Luckier still, that you live where their three currents meet. There are few things whole until they are contradicted, broken, and brought again into their beginning. The wind makes the wave, wave breaks the shore, the mountain catches the wind, and all dance together, making, unmaking, remaking the world.

I saw you then. I saw you begin with your goodbyes. You walked barefoot on the grass. I could sense the denseness of it, the thickness of the things in the middle of the world. You walked three times around and your toes disappeared between the blades, into the sand. It is true, it is yielding, this is its reason. You dug a small hole with your hands. The earth gave way for you. And I saw you place a lock of your hair in the little hole. Your hair was black and the earth was dark and they seemed to be alike to me, hair and loam, fine and yielding, growing and decaying. Your goodbye token where we all meet our endings, covered again gentle and then, gone.

I felt as if the Great One beneath me was emerging suddenly, rising up from the ground, and all was surrounded by foam and froth. I saw you on the shore, I watched you sitting and looking South, out across the vastness of Sea and Islands, Strait and Cape. You were writing your wish on paper the colour of white sand, of skin, in deep blue ink. Three times you wrote it, and I saw you cry, and how the salt water smudged your words. I saw you touch the page to your mouth, and I saw the words dissolve with salty kiss. You rose and walked to the water, the loam washed from your feet and joined the sand, the paper you put into the water and I saw how alike the ink and water were, blue and billowing and snaking and flowering and dissolving again. The paper was clear again, and your words belonged to the Sea. I watched them float past me, out, away South towards home, they will be home soon, I thought, and then they were gone.

There was a great cracking sound, and the wave crested and for a moment I rode high upon it, then it fell away beneath me. I floated on the warm current, stretched out under me I saw the islands, the breaking waves, the open Oceans and the Red Land south. So far, I could see my home, far from the hot Equatorial winds, under the Mountain, all spread out and kissed at once by the gossamer breath of the World. My Mother tells me, listen, the Wind is whispering. I thought I could hear it. I heard it hiss and bellow, the Snake beneath me still, stretched out like an ancient spear thrown by a Giant, hissed long and caught both current and tune. I heard you speaking, so small a voice, how long it held, three times I heard it. How alike they are, the song of your breath and the song of the Wind! How far they travel, how it is they always return home. I learned them. I flew like a bird and in an instant I was home.

The wind settled into a cacophony of all the familiar songs of waves and trees and birds. The air was still but the song continued all collected. It was warm and wet, and I heard the parrots, I walked between the mangroves, and saw a flash of electric blue, a cassowary in the thick forest, I sat beneath the ancient pines.

I sat there, for what seemed a long time, with my Stav. So long that I saw green things take anchor in the soil, I walked on the shore, for a fleeting moment I saw a myriad of ink words rise up in the surf, I sung your greeting there, and let it settle in the gums and the little birds answer it.

I thought of you.