The hum and crackle of cassette tape texture
is what brings it back. The breath behind the whisper.
I used to think I felt it breathing on my skin
from within the speaker, murmuring theology
that prickled through the tiny hairs inside my ears:
the devil, the garden and the awful, awful snake.
In my mind was a far more terrible snake,
Sickly in cartoon colours and earthworm texture.
It would follow me to bed with its voice in my ear,
and the slithering things I thought I heard it whisper.
In my dreams it took on its own mythology:
every dark, secret thing I feared, writhing in the same skin.
The change came when I saw beauty in discarded skin:
opaque like sea glass, the cut and curl of a snake,
but uncanny like some beast from mythology.
Rubbed between my fingers, its frail, subtle texture,
made ghost scales move against themselves and whisper
like sand between fingers when I held it to my ear.
So if that biblical serpent would nibble my ear
through haunting, bleak cassette tapes, I’d picture snakeskin:
feel it in my hands again and drown out the damning whisper
with the soothing secularity of the snake;
its vital simplicity and the warm shifts in texture
as it moved, betraying it as a thing of pure biology.
But by the laws of that strained theology
that grew more and more troublesome to my ears,
the snake snuck roughness into the soul’s smooth texture,
aided by a lesser serpent in human skin.
I fit the shape of accomplice to the snake.
It was towards my ear that it had leant to whisper.
But now the snake and I have better things to whisper.
Between the two of us, we write our own mythology,
a testament to our solidarity: Eve and the snake.
Record it on cassette, play it for the same young ears
that felt the fear of sinful transgress ion prick their skin.
Together, we’ll give bible paper new texture.
It isn’t the snake we should be taught to fear,
but the whisper of insidious theology
that creeps under the skin through cassette tape texture.