Ouroboros & Other Poems

Celia Sorhaindo

Ouroboros

William Arens declared the death of our ritual man-eating ‘othering’ myths, but in the circle
I say my name, then shamelessly, confess, show-off my secret, cannibal. A trillion billion
years from now, perhaps we’ll be radiotrophic and humane. Until then, I say, hear, eat this!
I dish out my fleshed out blackink body of cooked-up words. Ask, please, can I have more.


I am a SELFÆTA
           *CANNIBAL*
My habits are cannibalistic
           *CANNIBAL*
I ruminate loopily on my thoughts
           *CANNIBAL*
I gnaw a nagging piece of hangnail
           *CANNIBAL*
I bite my nails; nibble edge of finger
           *CANNIBAL*
I devour all forms of human material
           *CANNIBAL*
I consume social media feeds of others
           *CANNIBAL*
I am consumed by my own self…hate…love
           *CANNIBAL*
My body sometimes attacks and devours itself
           *CANNIBAL*
I nourish plant roots with their own cut off leaves
           *CANNIBAL*
We feed off each other’s ideas…we feed off each other
           *CANNIBAL*
We make rituals of feeding ourselves to ourselves and others
           *CANNIBAL*
I expected someone else’s energy to always fill and sustain me
           *CANNIBAL*
Corporate media bodies feed negatives; charge thoughts and feelings
           *CANNIBAL*
Corpulent babies feed off mothers and fathers; later this gets reversed
           *CANNIBAL*
I fear some thing, already grown huge, will continue to feed off our fear
           *CANNIBAL*
Nature says in plain letters, it’s all natural as hell to turn on ur self and eat
           *CANNIBAL
The bodies of water and land we feed from are full of human bones and flesh
           *CANNIBAL*
The manicou chews on its own tail, dangles it in water, baits fish with the blood
           *CANNIBAL*
Columbus mistook Caribe for Caniba. The rest is a history we’ve been force-fed
           *CANNIBAL*
He said “Take. Eat. This is My body which is broken for you. Do this…” and I did
           *CANNIBAL*
I chew on the word transubstantiation; try to swallow the meaning; try not to choke
           *CANNIBAL*
I feed poems my confusion, questions, my pain and joy – whatever they want to devour
           *CANNIBAL*
My poems make a meal of me – cut-up, grind-down, feast, ingest, digest, belch out words
           *CANNIBAL*
I feed poems my confusion, questions, my pain and joy – whatever they want to devour
           *CANNIBAL*
I chew on the word transubstantiation; try to swallow the meaning; try not to choke
           *CANNIBAL*
He said “Take. Eat. This is My body which is broken for you. Do this…” and I did
           *CANNIBAL*

Mango Truths

If I had been Adam – or Eve, forget
the cynic’s apple, my downfall fruit
would have been a stolen mango –
not too soft – eaten with teeth spitting
out skin, sucking, gnawing flesh down
to fibrous seed white like bone.

My mango addiction was once
haunted by unwitting bite into ghastly
burrowed worms – but I’ve learned good
lessons from Everything, Even my bad
experisenses. Now, I eat
my own

mangoes in good light,
ecstatic eyes open like theirs,
but guilt-free,
enjoying the pleasure
again; steeling
Myself – come what may.

If Atum and Eve were here now
– our mythic 01 binary opposites
split to spiralling 6 and 9 perhaps –
we would get drunk on the ripe fruit,
I would ask who and why, and hope
the answer was not γ with history’s long long tale;

I would let them spill out their
one or two sides; ask their POV on
the Pelagius vs Augustine story.
As for that lithe low lying snake,
I would sidle up beside it –
breathe breathlessly into its ear –

Ssssssnake tasssssste thissssss juiccccccy mangooooooo
then split my sides and die
laughing out loud.

Oprah’s Live Interview With Aurelius Augustinus aka St. Augustine of Hippo
(unfortunately, the Saint’s answers have not survived time)

I’m sure our audience watching knows all about you
but in case some don’t, give us a brief introduction

So, you were born in AD 354, in the Roman-Berber city Thagaste
in Numidia, North Africa, what we now call Souk Ahras, Algeria

Would you consider yourself African
Heritage – Roman – Berber

I’m curious – do you see yourself
as a member of the black race
or not

Let me ask you, did you ever experience
discrimination

What’s your view about the supposed curse
of Ham What was the general view held at that time

You started from humble beginnings How do you think
that shaped your life Tell us about your childhood growing up

Your siblings were Navigius and Perpetua What were they like
What did they do Were you all close

Did you have any other siblings 

I’m curious – I’ve never read about your grandparents
Did you know them
What about your lineage, your ancestors

How do you think
having a Pagan father and Christian mother influenced your childhood, if at all

Your parents made many serious sacrifices
for your education Did you feel
that put a lot of pressure on you to perform

How did your siblings feel
about you receiving such special attention

Do you believe in astrology by the way Your star sign is Scorpio
Would you say you’re a typical Scorpio

You had your son Adeodatus at a young age, 17, what impact
do you think that had on your life

Would you say you were a good
father

Your father died when you were 17, the same year your son was born, what impact
did his death have on you

And your son died at 17, a couple years after your mother died at age 56
How did they die

Your son’s name means given by God, and he was prematurely taken by God
A couple close friends of yours died too, am I right How did you cope with all this loss
Did you feel at the time, that these untimely deaths, were all God’s divine will

Tell us about that period in your life It must have been a very traumatic
time for you Did your faith help you through or was it severely tested

What other traumatic experiences have you had in your life

How would you describe your relationship with your father Patricius
I read you thought he should have been a bit stricter with you Set a better example

How do you think your father’s
affairs affected your mother How was their marriage

How did all of this affect you and your siblings

Do you still blame
him for your “sinfulness,” your promiscuity, when you were younger

Now, your autobiography, Confessions; which some say was the first “modern” autobiography
You wrote it in Latin in your early 40’s and it covers your pre-conversion to Christianity –
your “sinful” years There are 13 books in total I read them all It’s intensely personal
and well written I loved it I got a real rounded sense of you, your character, flaws and all

Why did you feel the need to make a print perpetual public confession
using this literary form – reveal so much about yourself and your thinking
What inspired or drove you to write it

How do you respond to those who say Confessions was an attempt to portray yourself
as more faithful to Christian teachings than Christ, and wash off any suspicious taints
of your previous Manichaeism and Neoplatonism beliefs

You miss out quite a few key events though, and dwell on events some may view as unimportant
Can you tell us the reasons behind these decisions about what it would and wouldn’t contain

What were you hoping readers would get from it

What was the response to it like

So, after moving to Milan, you converted to the Catholic faith and were baptised
and you resolved to make some drastic lifestyle changes—all after hearing the voice of an
unseen child singing “pick up and read, pick up and read”—leading you to that Bible passage
in the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 13: 13-14 I’ll just read that passage out for the audience:
“Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”
So, just prior to that you were crying, going through an intense emotional crisis, racked with
shame about your divided will and your inability to live a life of self-denial like St. Antony
Can you tell us more about what happened

And you never heard any more strange voices after

And you’ve been totally celibate since

I’ve heard about the rumours Set the record straight
How promiscuous and “sinful” were you really compared to what you reveal in your book

And your “liaisons” included men too

Tell us more about your mother Monnica
I must admit I laughed at how you describe when as a child she would sneak
wine from the cask every time she was sent to fetch it; and how she
stopped when a servant cruelly teased her about it

How would you describe your relationship with your mother From all accounts you were very close
I read in your book, that when you were leaving for Rome, and I quote,
she was hanging onto me coercively, trying to either stop
my journey or come along with me on it.”
You wrote that you got quite angry with her and even had to lie to her
and you described her longing to be with you, as“carnale desiderium”

Do you still believe all women inherit the vestiges of Eve” 

Can you give us an example of how you believe
these manifest in traits or behaviours

Did your mother force you to ditch your ‘baby-mama’, your common-law-wife of 14 years
or did she leave on her own accord after her conversion

I read she vowed never ever to have anything
else to do with men Is she still living a celibate life at the monastery

Do you feel any remorse – or blame
yourself at all, at all, for what happened

By the way, what was her name again

How old was she when you met her and how did you guys meet

So, in your book, you write about that mystical moment in 387, in Ostia You and your mother were
discussing how no physical pleasure – not even the greatest sex, could compare to the happiness
of the Saints and everlasting life Then you had a shared vision – your souls climbing through
degrees of matter, through the heavenly spheres, towards eternity beyond time
And then you both reached an ecstatic rapturous climax together
You describe it as the most intense moment of your life
Can you share with us more details on what exactly happened
What it felt like

Your mother died soon after, right, you were 33 at the time I believe

I’d like to talk now about your doctrine of Original Sin, Originale Peccatum Let’s just call it OS
So, you believe because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and ate the forbidden fruit, the whole of
humanity is forever condemned to be born with OS; born inherently sinful with a built-in urge to do
bad things – and that’s how death entered the world It’s a controversial concept, would love to know
more Explain to us in detail your doctrine of OS and
how OS gets propagated down the generations

So, the father passes OS to just the sons or the daughters too

What about the mother, she doesn’t pass down OS

And OS is transmitted through passion, arousal, the lust and sexual desire leading
to intercourse, or as you put it, through concupiscence”, right

So, your OS doctrine of propagate sin, makes marriage, and the intention to procreate, start a family,
an intentionally sinful contract then

Well how on earth did God intend for Adam and Eve to make babies, if not by
arousal and sexual intercourse Just by willing it By divine intervention

And you believe a new born baby who hasn’t done anything, is already damaged by OS
and faces eternal damnation, if they die without being baptised

And the only way to be saved, is by God granting divine Grace,
getting baptised, confession and asking for forgiveness

So, you’re saying we have free will and moral agency, but our free will
is only inclined to sin and to only do bad things – unless we get help to do better, from God
That doesn’t sound much like free will to me

I assume then you’re on the Nature side of the Nurture vs Nature argument

So where exactly does OS reside The blood The DNA The brain The body The breath
In the thin air

I wonder where we would be if someone went back in time and said
whatever you do, don’t eat that fruit.”

By the way, what do you think about Apple Inc., the multinational technology company,
using that bitten fruit for their branding What do you think it symbolises for them

There are a couple of incidents growing up that you mention in Confessions, as being significant
to your eventual OS doctrine, one was your father’s reaction and comments on seeing your
erection when you guys were at the bathhouse, when you were a teenager Tell us what happened

And your mum’s reaction

So, you were confused and ashamed about where the erection came from
Why you were not in command
of your own organ and why it seemed to have a mind of its own, an involuntary arousal

Another incident was how you got a thrill out of stealing things with your mates, like the pears
not because you wanted the items per se, but more the adrenaline rush of stealing
Looking back, don’t you think these were just normal childish pranks kids
get up to – not anything to get too hung up about

Define Sin, simply

Where did Sin come from then, and how did it get here in the world to allow Adam to sin in the first
place Why did God create Adam and Eve with the ability to sin
why didn’t God just untick that option on the human creation model 1.0

Do you still wholeheartedly stand by your views on OS
non posse non peccare, massa peccati, and, in my opinion
your very pessimistic picture of humanity’s ability
not to sin – not to be inclined to do good

Some people have said your doctrine of OS is based on flawed logic, false
assumptions; and has had serious negative consequences in the world
That OS doctrine is misogynistic, anti-sexual love, perversely negative about sexuality
doesn’t encourage one to take responsibility for one’s actions, shifts blame, leads to
excess shame and guilt complexes, and sets impossible ideals to live up to, etc
Also, it’s unfair to punish humanity for crimes committed by Adam and Eve
How do you respond

Do you take responsibility for any of your actions or life choices
or do you blame every “sinful” or bad thing you do, have done, on OS

Do you still feel the same about Pelagius’s views about free will and divine given grace
For the sake of the audience, let me read some of his beliefs that opposed yours:

  1. Adam was created mortal and would have died whether he had sinned or not
  2. the sin of Adam injured himself alone, not the whole human race
  3. newborn children are in the same state in which Adam was before his fall
  4. unbaptized infants have eternal life
  5. neither by the death and sin of Adam does the whole human race die, nor will it rise because of the resurrection of Christ
  6. the law as well as the gospel offers entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven
  7. even before the coming of Christ, and under the old covenant, there were men wholly without sin

Also, Pelagius and his followers denied unconditional predestination, right

Do you feel any remorse about Pelagius’s excommunication
condemnation by the Church and expulsion from Jerusalem

By the way, do you have pdf’s of Pelagius’s treatises
On Nature and Defense of the Freedom of the Will
you could email me please Would love to read them

At one time you thought the Bible stories were crude, absurd allegories
but then changed your mind Who or what convinced you they should be
taken literally Do you still think Genesis should be interpreted literally

The Roman Catholic Church eventually reversed your view that
unbaptised babies go to hell when they die, and now they go to heaven
How do you feel about that

I recently had Andrew Jasko on the show
He wrote an article The Trauma that Inspired Oppressive Biblical Teachings
Have you come across it Would love to know what you think of his ideas

You are such a prolific writer
How many books now
What do you hope your readers get
from reading your work

How would you like to be remembered

Tell us about your new book, Even if I am mistaken, I am (It’s Up To Me If I Change My Mind)
What is it about What made you write it Where is it available

How has self-publishing worked out for you

On a scale of 1 to 10, how sinful would you say you were before and after conversion
Just teasing

So, tell us, is everlasting life
really better than great sex

And what does a saintly man like Aurelius do for relaxation
What music do you listen to
Do you have any hobbies
Do you do yoga, meditation,
TikTok, Netflix

Do you have a blog, website, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter accounts
where folks can follow what you’re up to

Sadly, that’s all we have time for but I think we’ll have to have you on again
So many areas we did not cover, like your thoughts about memory and time

Thank you so much for granting me this interview
Before you go, one final question Aurelius
Do you still wish only to know two things, God and the Soul

Some of Oprah’s thoughts during the interview (in no particular order)

[We’ve not discussed these questions before Let’s see how this goes My career is riding on this]

[He’s much darker than some of his pictures on the internet]

[He seems very sincere]

[Not bad in the looks department]

[I really should not have asked that]

[Those fierce piercing eyes, wow!]

[His mother sounds a bit overbearing, not quite Joan Crawford Mommie Dearest, but still a force]

[hmmm no answer Moving swiftly on to the next question]

[He’s quite a force himself Charming but intense No signs of nerves yet]

[How’s my hair looking you all]

[oh god, help me keep a straight face, he succumbed to pear pressure lmao]

[That’s convenient]

[Oh no! I don’t believe he just said “you can read about that in my book”]

[He’s one of the most brilliant, bullishly articulate men I’ve ever interviewed]

[Wow, he is so well read]

[He’s very eccentric]

[That’s a whole heap of leading questions I’m asking lol]

[Did he just mansplain that]

[I can’t believe I asked him that on a live show]

[So that conveniently lets God off the hook for any evil in the world then]

[He’s crying Wasn’t expecting that! Good for audience interest though]

[I’ve read Confessions hmmm self justification – self creation?]

[He’s very passionate]

[Eye shift, fidget, hands twitching]

[That’s quite a story Make a blockbuster film Would love to play Monnica]

[He’s got great hair]

[yah yah yah yah heard that before]

[He’s very likeable I like him]

[How’s my make-up holding up These lights are hot]

[That’s definitely one for the next Book Club]

[He’s a little weird]

[I need a drink]

[Oops got to get him back on my side]

[Sweat above upper lip]

[Wacko!]

[uh oh! fire alarm just went off Switch to a 2 minute commercial break Fuck Fuck]

[I was surprised he was willing to go so far with this]

[Ah how touching]

[Not sure I believe that]

[He seems very earnest, honest…well as honest and forthcoming as he wants to be…or can be]

[So relieved that’s over! I think it went well I’ll let you all be the judge]

Celia A. Sorhaindo was born in The Commonwealth of Dominica. She migrated with her family to England in 1976, when she was 8 years old, returning home in 2005. Her poems have been published in several Caribbean journals (PREE, The Caribbean Writer, BIM, Moko Magazine, Susumba Book Bag), and also Rattle magazine (poets respond), Mslexia, Wasafiri, Anomaly, Magma Poetry (Obsidian issue) and New Daughters of Africa Anthology. Her first poetry chapbook, Guabancex, longlisted for the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, was published in 2020 by Papillote Press. Her first full length poetry collection, Radical Normalisation, is due to be published by Carcanet Press in 2022.
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