‘Sea Creatures’

Rosie Dahlstrom: Cover for ‘Sea Creatures’ (limited edition book, 2021)

This is a short piece of writing that is kind of poetic, kind of prose, that re-tells the story of the Gorgon sisters in a collage of ancient and contemporary references. I wrote it while painting a series of watercolours illustrating scenes from the narrative, when pieces of text floated into my head and stuck together to form something quite intuitive. I tried not to overwork it, keeping its floaty, liminal energy. It’s a real experiment for me, and after having the ‘Sea Creatures’ book printed in December, brings an exciting depth to the lockdown watercolour project and opens new possibilities for the shapes these creatures could form.

Please continue reading for a segment of the text.

Rosie Dahlstrom: ‘Sea Creatures I’, watercolour and ink on paper, 2021

PART I

Sing, goddess, sing! Sing of beauty and sing of rage. Sing of breathless loss, and truth.

Here is something true.

A dark act breeds dark creatures.

A dark act clouds the sky and churns the sea. It was a dark act that set us adrift on a storm-tossed ocean. 

We plot a black course through stars, and make a choice not to drown.

One is strong.
One is fast.
One is a vessel, built to last.

Exiled as we are, we still have our visitors. Princes come from all over the known world, tired of their usual hunting trophies and worn-out songs of triumph. 

Where are all the mountain lions that used to keep them occupied? All the stags, wild boars, and bears? Oh yes, their heads are already decorating their fathers’ palace walls. But there is a little space left, and a son who wants his own story sung by bards. So now they come for us.

But we have quite the collection ourselves.

Rosie Dahlstrom: ‘Sea Creatures II’, watercolour and ink on paper, 2021

PART II

Sand, sweat, sun and skin. Washed off with salt water as we swim. Tiny pieces of pebbles, bones and broken shells, collected underneath our fingernails.

The empty shell holds the space of a soul departed to immortal plains.

It holds pink whorls and furtive curves, untouched by anything more sinister than those small spiky creatures that crawl and hide.

Born from the deep, thrown up by the swell, bursting with salted uterine waters and secrets. Broken open, the shell is empty, the creature that once lived there has fled. Or perhaps not fled, perhaps grown. Perhaps even been released.

Here we are, the shell broken, the pearl stolen, the flesh consumed.

If you are afraid to see us, then put us to your ear and hear us.

Rosie Dahlstrom: ‘Sea Creatures V’, watercolour on paper, 2021

PART IV

The wine-dark sea laps like a hungry tongue at the swollen, bloody flesh. Split me open, she screams with her skin. Rip me apart, get these 

horrible, cursed children out of me, throw them onto the land still slick with their mother’s gore, to hunt and terrorise men far away from here.

Nothing ripped from a headless corpse can come to any good. But there is life in there still and it must be gotten out. 

A god’s embrace is never fruitless.

Leave behind the blood, and the body. It is only a heavy, useless shell.

Sing, goddess, of mute beauty and impotent fury. Sing of rumbles from the deep and ancient world, and how they shiver and shudder through time, so we can feel them still.

Leave behind the body, abandon the blood.

Arrival of ‘Sea Creatures’ publications, 8th December 2021

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