Serpent Sun

The Snake Charmer-Henri Rousseau 1907
In 1941 Andre Breton with his wife Jacqueline Lamba and daughter Aube left Marseilles bound for New York. Travelling on a crowded cargo freighter they arrived after a long and difficult crossing in the Caribbean island of Martinique, which was under the control of the  Nazi-dominated Vichy Regime. His experiences on the island led to the book Martinique—Charmeuse de Serpents and describes his internment in a military prison camp upon arrival. After his release he was to meet, after a series of chance encounters, the Martinican poet, politician and fierce anti-colonialist theorist; Aime Cesaire and his brilliant wife Suzanne.

The encounter was to influence all parties profoundly. Andre Breton praises Aime Cesaire’s book length poem (mixed with prose) Cahier d’un retour au pays Natal (Notebook on a Return to the Native Land) as  “nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times.”  The Cesaire’s embraced Surrealism as a potential tool to help in the struggle for black identity and self-determination worldwide. Aime was to be one of the founders of the Negritude movement and mentored the revolutionary Franz Fanon, whose The Wretched of the Earth analysed the brutalizing effect that colonialism has upon both the colonized and the colonizer and is widely considered a landmark in the literature of colonial studies.


Serpent Sun

Serpent sun eye bewitching my eye
and the sea flea-ridden with islands cracking in the fingers of flamethrower roses and my
intact body of one thunderstruck
the water raises the carcasses of light lost in the pompless corridor
whirlwinds of ice floes halo the steaming hearts of ravens
our hearts
it is the voice of tamed thunderbolts turning on their crack hinges
a transfer of anolis to the landscape of broken glasses it is the vampire flowers relaying the
elixir of the central fire
fire just fire night mango tree swarming with bees
my desire a throw of tigers caught in the sulphurs
but the stannous awakening gilds itself with infantine deposits
and my pebble body eating fish eating doves and slumbers
the sugar in the word Brazil deep in the marsh.


30 thoughts on “Serpent Sun

  1. This is a great entry, Mr. Cake. Fascinating reading. I love The Snake Charmer and Cesaire’s poem is well-worth the visit in itself. What an image: ‘the sea flea-ridden with islands cracking in the fingers of flamethrower roses’ — so piercing, so beautiful. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Mr Moore… he was a great poet and President to boot. Surrealism had a big influence in the Caribbean and if you accept the argument that magic realism was an offshoot of Surrealism (Alejo Carpentier was a member and then a Documents dissident and his novel The Kingdom of this World is arguably the first magic realism novel) then upon Latin America.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I like Carpentier, Los pasos perdidos above all. Lots of influence of Cervantes in his writing too, and Cervantes certainly has some “surreal” moments, the voyage into space on Clavileño, for example, and some of the dream sequences… in DQ,II.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Will do: it’s really a question of setting up a reading schedule and then allowing those following it to ask questions. It’s the questions that are important, and they will vary with the background of each reader.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “Serpent Sun” is and interesting post and poem. I like that you selected “The Snake Charmer” by Rousseau, reminding me of the phrase, “the sea flea-ridden with islands”. The poem is filled with so much symbolism, especially fire and water (opposites), possibly the “colonized and the colonizer”. Please feel free to enlighten me Mr. Cake. ~ Miss Cranes

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, I wish I could enlighten you further on the meaning of Serpent Sun but I can really go no further than the effects of colonialism. Cesaire was profoundly influenced by not only the surrealists but also the poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Fanon seems a distant figure now that the world seems to be lurching to the right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Obviously the current crop of would be leaders hasn’t been dusted with it’s magic. There are but a few visionaries left and their voices are drowned out by bluster and lies. So dissipated in so thin a cloud that no one individual or movement has been able to recapture that same wave.

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