Monday, June 28, 2010


I found a copy of Robert Graves' Greek Gods and Heroes today at the dump here in Cape Elizabeth, Me. That was the only place so far that I've see any pigeons in this state. In the strange shelter where you drop your trash they were playing an ear thrashing recording of some electronic avian in order to keep the scavenging birds away. We asked what the noise was, thinking at first that it was some sort of actual bird trapped within the building's corrugated metal walls, and were told by a man working the site that it was his perpetual headache, a noise that only served to attract what it was designed to deter.

Tonight the small Graves volume was bedtime reading. I came across "Melampus and Phylacus", a surprisingly cheerful Greek myth. This was welcome because it wasn't so cheerful when King Midas killed himself in embarrassment over his ass ears. Melampus caught my attention because it has the same message as Grimm 17, The White Snake, a theme that startles me because it seems to speak of some kind of snake dependent reverse fall .

One day Melampus of Pylus prevented his servants from killing a brood of snakes, whose mother had been run over by a cart. In gratitude, the little snakes wriggled into his bed while he slept and licked his ears with their forked tongues. Melampus woke up and found that he could understand the language of birds and insects. Though disappointed to find how dull their conversations usually were, he sometimes overheard most interesting secrets.

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