This short poem came about because of an argument in SW Atlanta about a mural. It was done by a French muralist, Piere Roti, (commissioned by Living Walls.org) and though a complex allegory, it was beautiful, significant and full of symbolism. Piere Roti also left an “Artist’s Statement at the beginning of this very long mural on a blank wall on University Avenue. It was in French, and was painted over.
This wall was generaly laden with gang grafitti and nothing else. We were all excited to see this acclaimed international artist paint this over the month of August in full southern sun. It is complex and needs a lot of contemplation to understand the message, but again, there was little chance of that happening because of the actions of some very backward people with an agenda.
Some so-called community leaders and some church memebers took it into their own hands, without any considerations except that they ‘found the mural to be demonic, satanic” and covered this mural with grey paint. Others within this community got out there with buckets of water and scrub brushes to attempt to restore this mural.
What will happen to the mural is up in the air right now. However, it points to an issue in general about public art and what is accepted.
This struggle isn’t over and there are plenty of lessons to go around. But whether people on both sides listen is up in the air.
“SNAKES IN THE ‘HOOD”
“When people see a snake, they think a serpent.
When they think serpent, they see Satan”
….former State Rep. Douglas Dean, Atlanta
Oh, my dear garden snakes,
Run and hide in the leaf litter!
You appear each spring as if birthed from that old stump,
Your beautiful duns and browns and moss greens
Intermingling with last year’s fallen leaves.
I remember wearing you as divine jewelry
Around my slender wrists as a child.
You terrified the adults
but transformed me into Cleopatra.
I remember a box under my bed
Disturbed by a dust mop,
And a dozen of you slithered out
Felt the 200 year old wooden floors,
Cold on your bellies.
The handler of the dust mop screamed
And I never could find you all.
Did you disappear out that window
Where you would have dropped 30 feet to the ground?
I mourned for those missing
And learned adults didn’t have the tolerance
Of children for the miracles of nature.
Later I remember eating blackberries from
A stand of rambling bushes,
Warmed by the July sun
Of the North Carolina mountains
And below me a cotton mouth doing the same.
I backed up out of fear and respect,
But the blackberries were good
And enough to share.
I remember the black racers
That hung in the pine trees
And we, daring each other
To run under them,
Hoping one of us would get squeezed
In your embracing coils
But it never happened.
You knew our game.
In other cultures you snakes
Symbolized the umbilical cord
Joining all humans to Mother Earth.
In ancient Crete
You were the guardians
Of the Goddess’ great mysteries
Of birth and regeneration.
The Hopi Indians
Joined the snake of the Sky Spirit
With the snake of the Earth
And dancing with them in great reverence,
Loosened them into the fields
Where the golden corn was growing
To bless and secure their fertility.
No garden hoe will touch you,
My dear little garden snakes,
No stoning of your innocence,
I will gather your twine-ing bodies
And lift you above the ignorance of bigotry.
They violate their God’s dictates
“Even to the lesser of you amongst us”
And you, without limbs or voice are surely that.
If not beloved by God, surely you will be beloved by me.