Garden of Eden

And the man and his wife hid themselves…

—Genesis 3:8



It is the breezy time of day,

when God is heard

walking in the velvet garden,

just before sunset.


Roots wind beneath

the coverlets of earth,

fleshy mandrakes

drawing water in the dark.


He whispers

an earthy breath—

where are you?


They don’t answer,

the man and his wife—

two forked roots intertwined,

children of the ground.



It is, after all, the flesh that matters:

The crisp juicy flesh in your mouth,


Sweet nectar in your throat. Not

The fruit growing on the tree,


Not the serpent talking about the fruit,

Not Eve fingering its smooth skin,


Nor even her plucking it from the tree—

But the eating of it.


And the offering of the fruit to Adam

And his eating it.


Of course, Genesis does not say it was an apple.

(Do apples even grow in Mesopotamia?)


But we don’t need to know if the garden was indeed

In the cradle of the Tigris-Euphrates


Or whether the climate was right for apples

To know: it was truly an apple


That hung temptingly in the center of that triangle

Of serpent and tree and God.




And when we bite into the flesh of the apple,

It is more than the apple that we consume.


We eat pistils and stamens, pink petals of blossoms,

Gnarled bark, and green rasping leaves—


The skin a globe around the soil and sun, insects and sap.

When we eat, we eat the pie, and the flag, bytes, Snow White,


And the Chevy truck, too.

We eat the apples arranged in piles in the bins at Save-A-Lot,  


Green Granny Smith spinning on the record label,

Apple polished and centered neatly on the third grade teacher’s desk.


And even when we eat the apple down to its papery core

And toss away the skeletal remains,


The apple still tumbles down the hillside; still teeters

On the pale blond head of the boy who prays, eyes clenched,


For his father’s steady hand; still travels downward, falling,

Ever falling toward the head of the scientist


Who sits beneath the apple tree; still trembles, skin vibrating,

In the hand of the woman in the garden.


And at the very moment teeth penetrate into flesh

Begins the longest fall.




And though we tumble,

Head over bent legs, slowly downward,


Tumble through generations and epochs,

Through fairy tales and legends—


Still the apples are pared and baked, strudeled and sauced,

Are carried by hand to the doorsteps of stepdaughters,


Are gathered and counted, bobbed for and tossed.

Still the seeds jostle in the buckskin bag of the man who plants orchards.


Apples are yet polished and carameled, sliced and fermented.

Still they bloom cloud-like each spring,


Swell to the hard green berries of June,

And hang heavy and red ripe in the autumn orchards.


Still one apple dangles from a branch of a tree in every garden,

Waiting again for the hand that will pluck it,


For the mouth that will partake.



The Archangel Michael lays down his fiery sword.

He rests beside the Gate, chin cradled

on slender fingers, eyes black with pity.

Go on, he nods, then churns the pale air,

monstrous ivory wings pulling skyward

and away, his eternal station moot

before my solitary return.  Then I

pass through, entering the garden of her absence.


This is the realm between Lillith and Eve, between

Eve and the one who must follow – Not even

God has shown His face here since the Fall.

Whoever thought I’d be back – complaining again

about a woman?  You really blew it

this time, I’d like to say, and not

hear the Old Man’s niggling, It was

your rib, as I recall.  You taught


Her everything she knows – As if

that explained something – As if

having shared so intimate a bonding

made clear betrayals, justified her storms

of leavings, lies, of crying outs old Moses

will never bother to record.  As if

Know Thyself were not three thousand years

from being spoken, let alone observed.


It’s autumn in the garden of her absence.

The Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil, weeps

blood that swirls around me like a whisper

of her name.  Those Pagans no one mentions

kindly in these times are pounding drums

across the Outer Darkness, leaping fires,

calling up ghosts.  I sense her touch

upon my shoulder, turn, find only God,


His countenance more hot than shining.  Here

I am, home again, alone again,

pockets empty, hands out to Daddy.

Where’s your friend?  As if He hadn’t seen it

written in the dust He gave His breath

in molding me, predicted in the bones

He rolled to bring her forth – our bitterness

like apples out of season falling not


So far from Abba’s tree.  One has to wonder

a triune God, three faces wholly male –

What ghostly woman stirs His hand?  What memory

long denied seeps cold into the clay

of His every creation?  Love, then loss,

then loneliness, repeating like a song –

What Goddess’ voice enchants Him from Her distance,

rebounding like an echo to His sons?


The Tree of Life sighs weary of its burden.

From Gate to wall, this orchard of neglect

groans beneath the weight of fruit gone ripe

to bursting on the branch, the season turning

its clock behind His back. I sense her hiding,

I answer, finally, there beyond the sun,

behind the trees, beneath the grass Perhaps

there in your robes…  The old magician turns,


Plucks from my side a rabbit, golden coins

rain from my ears, an endless stream of scarves

flow from my sleeves, lifted by twin doves

who once had been mere buttons.  I would like

to be impressed, as I was in my youth,

by tricks whose secrets I once hoped to guess,

when innocence was newly lost, and trembling

rage and flaming swords left their mark


On memory, those days when she was all

the miracle I needed to believe

in every gaff and sleight, in every card

He guessed, to let Him think He got it right,

when gratitude came easy, and her face

made casting out a trivial affair,

when all the God-forsaken world was ours

to shape as children sculpt the night in dreams;


But tricks lead like a circle to this garden.

God’s sweating as He shovels from the earth

a woman’s shape.  His beaded brow inspires

in me only grief.  For all His showman’s

dazzle, huffing this one into life,

all I see, with each turn of the trowel:

the vacant grave emerging in its wake.

Should I spurn this golem, would His heart


Follow my descent into that dark

tomb, her name a torch upon my tongue?

Or if I lay my earthen body heavy

atop the mound He’s building, beg the rains

to wash this repetition back to mud –

will His throat take up the prayer I’m singing

for Him, for me, to some more ancient God

of Harvest to reclaim this land, some Goddess,


Circling in the ever-faithful moon,

to touch us both as hidden streams of water

secretly feed deserts?  Somewhere blooming

beyond this fallen landscape there must lie

a garden of Her presence, golden apples,

pregnant with the promises of youth,

crowning loyal fingertips, still raising

Her shameless question to our wounded mouths.