This Eve, Only Once

August 26, 2013

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skin, and clothed them.
—Genesis 3:21

It’s not that the garden was empty this evening.
The rabbits still played among the fallen apples,
the bees still put honey in their honeycomb, and
the flowers continued to hiss and sway like snakes.
It was just that Adam was missing.
Even as Eve called his name into the darkness,
she knew he was gone. She felt for his rough skin,
his startled hands. She remembered his leather tongue.

As she sits in the garden’s rustle and quiver,
Eve sees a quill pen beneath the willow tree:
Something to write her poetry with.
She had tried to make up a word for each flower,
—the daises, and the lilies, and the bougainvillea—,
but had failed in a poverty of languages, each turned to babble.  
Imagine that the bull frogs could suddenly speak
Latin and the cicada Mandarin Chinese.

So puzzling. While each word began as a poem,
full of laughter and rain, soon the garden
had turned dry and stale, an old imagining of the desert,
one that drained the language of sense and sentiment
out of the soil. She might have been playing a joke or
rehearsing for a play, rather than reciting poetry.
Adam, she said as the beast rose up under her sibling, earth.
This evening, this Eve, only once, knew God as excess.

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3 Responses to “This Eve, Only Once”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Okay, that troubling phrase, ‘God as excess’: it started its life as ‘God is excess,’ and it didn’t originate the poem, but it was there early on and helped shape the poem. Sounds like heresy, doesn’t it? Look up ‘excess’ in Google images and you will find a picture of a big fat man, dishes piled high with food, eating. That can’t what God is like, can it?
    Keep in mind I think of poetry as a way to explore language and words and my psyche… that kind of thing, and that I don’t necessarily know what it means. But a couple of chains of thoughts here.
    Think of Blake’s, ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.’ He was talking about us, though, wasn’t he? Not God. He is saying, our knowledge of God is dependent on excess (of zeal, of commitment, in meditation, through sinning—St. Paul, St. Augustine—by fasting, etc.) So excess might be a path to achieve knowledge of God…but God’s knowledge of himself, could it be the result of excess too? Put another way, are we the result of God’s excess—or are we God’s excess—a kind of froth on the greater creation, the universe itself? Is mankind’s creation God’s excess, something perhaps a more temperate God would have avoided? It would account for the nagging feeling that we all (I contend) have, that life may be meaningless. Wallace Stevens’ altogether superior description—we live in an old chaos of the sun—sums this up nicely. And in coming to know God, does Eve encounter only his excess? Perhaps Adam and Eve had to get out of the Garden in order to achieve true status as human beings, that they had to become gardeners, not passive recipients of God’s bounty. Maybe Adam has just run down to the Home Depot to pick up a rake and some gardening gloves.
    This is, of course, a lot of nonsense. Equating ‘Creation Itself’ with eating too much apple pie for desert! If there is a God, who may or may not warrant the description ‘exists’(and I ask you to consider how preposterous ‘god’ seems to an atheist) and then there is our conception of God, which is something of a mirror of ourselves—our needs, desires, etc. To claim God is excess (think of frosting on a cake) might—indeed, is—indicative of Eve’s situation in the ‘Garden’.
    I’ll try one last time. Eve proceeds through the poem from being alone in the garden, to being a kind of poet—but maybe a superficial one—to another kind of poet, one that is being lead back to the earth—her sibling, in a great confrontation with God—what is the relationship between Eve as poet and God as excess? Of course, I’m fooling around with the words ‘eve’ and ‘evening’, but as Eve becomes evening she moves from a poet who is giving names to flowers, to a poet who recognizes her ‘sibling’, earth. Not bad, Eve.
    I think I should put a comma after ‘God’ in that last line. It would separate and distribute the excess into the whole sentence. But I’m not trying to run away from the original idea, that God is excess. Those last two lines…would it be fair to say that they are excessive?

  2. Anna Mark Says:

    I have read this one a number of times and enjoy all the connotations and images and emotions that arise as I read it. In the first stanza all is well but Adam is gone. I like the emphasis that I sense around the word “name” and “tongue” and how the second stanza is about language, the poverty of language which for me is also tied to Adam’s absence. I am puzzled by the ending, too, and would love to hear what you’d say about it. Is it the coming of Adam? His return?And why only once knew God as excess?

  3. John Stevens Says:

    I loved the opening lines and indeed the first two stanzas of this one, Jim. And that’s such a marvellous opening line! I like the novel idea of Eve on her own and Adam missing, and the thought of her naming things in a process that seems like the beginning of poetry. That’s such an original perspective but it all makes perfect sense. I got a bit lost towards the end puzzling out what was in your own mind, but thoroughly enjoyed the ride!


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