Ann Knox



THE SOURCE OF MEMORY

Adam woke from sleep and found her
watching him. They looked in silence
not yet knowing fear, surprise or even how
to address the other or how to shape a question.

He picked a fig and handed it to Eve.
She felt its weight, the skin's roughness
and the soft give to her touch. She bit
and a sweet tide flooded her tongue.

Later when they sat together under a carob tree
Adam told her what he'd done since morning,
how he'd walked the river bank naming
seven species of moss and made up the word
current for how water moved downstream.

Eve was watching ants crawl from a tiny hole.
Where do they come from? How is it that
we're here? Adam paused, reaching
for a plausible answer but found nothing
beyond the day's events. So he made up a story.

God, he said, God made us. And he went on
to create creation. She remembers that night, back
before work began, before hunger, cold
and the need for a friend, before knowing she'd
been a blank until something happened. But

if the mind knows only experience, where did
sweet come from, or sorrow or wonder, and
how come Adam could invent God?


EVE IS BORED THEN TEMPTED

I.

A sparrow tweaks oats from piled horse-dung,
Eve fiddles with a pebble, picks a twig to clean her nails
then buffs them against her thigh.  What now?

Yesterday Adam brought her a fig, its meat
pink and grainy, but he went right off again
to confirm a new species of lepidoptera.

Sure, she's learned a lot this past year
even to count a year and that past means
gone, but what was before, she can't imagine.

When she asked Adam, he went on and on
about a void, about separating night and day,
land and water.  Nothing useful, nothing
about family, childhood or the collective unconscious.

Oh, well, as Adam says, one step at a time;
still, she can play with the fox cubs, invent games,
tell herself stories, make up a best friend.

I'll be that friend.
 
The voice coiled out of the leaves
from a striped creature she'd not seen before.

Good, someone to talk with.  And it was
good, the old story:  snake oil merchant,
lonely farm wife--they chat, he opens
a whole world she hadn't imagined.

There's a stir, definitely a stir, an unnamed
something beyond.  Perhaps Adam would change,
would wonder about wants, motives.  But change how?
The snake sways toward a tree heavy with fruit.

II.

Why not?
His words echo in the empty
silo of Eve's history.  Why not?
Cleopatra, Emma Bovary, Hester Prynne,
we all make choices, aren't we human?

The fruit, plump and firm, drops neat
in her palm, she breathes its heady scent,
her teeth slit the skin, the flesh

quickens on her tongue and new knowing
spreads, rioting  through her body
    Molly Bloom's enormous yes.


LOCKED OUT
    
The landlord claimed we broke the lease
then threw us out but all I did
was make friends with this guy.

Okay, so he was a dealer, but a real
charmer, lithe elegant as Fred Astaire.
All he did was roll a joint,
show me how to breathe in and hold.

Adam must try this stuff.

I find him sorting shells--
mollusk, bivalves, gastropods.
C'mon handsome.  (He is handsome,
nice pecs, chunky calves, not bad.)

Try this, I wave the joint.
    Eve, you shouldn't.
Well, I have and it's great.
    Look, you're messing up my classification.
C'mon. Mess up your mind,
Try a toke, you'll love it.

He brushes sand off his knees,
takes the joint gingerly, breathes in
and stands a moment utterly still, then,
Ahhh.
 
I laugh.
I know something  else you don't.
C'mon. I'll show you in the hayloft.

Fred Astaire, leaning against the tree,
twirls his cane, smiles and slides away.


EVE'S CLOTHES

The leaves were my idea.
Big, they need to be big.
Adam brought burdock but
the fabric proved brittle.

Try figs leaves. Their tough skin
held my bindweed stitches but
the aprons weren't much to look at.

In fact after the blowup, God
made us coats from animal skins
that with a few adjustments
hung on me really well.

Fur was a good idea and it was
nice of God after His big outburst.

But I know something about that
rain, kids indoors all day
squabbling, horsing around,
a broken bowlthe one
Adam carved for me from curly maple.

Out, I yell, Out.

On the porch, the two, silent, forlorn,
look at the rain. I turn back
for their slickers. Here, take these.
The girl buttons hers askew.
Ach!  I squat and set it to rights.

I'm still mad but something
gives way, not forgiveness exactly,
but a letting  go, an Oh well.  
I turn them around, and with a small shove
set them off into the wet world.


TWO SONS

Eve knew there'd be trouble when God honored
Abel's flock over Cain's heaped grain.

Field work is rougher than keeping kine and Cain
had filled the corn-cribs for his brother herd.

She'd watched him scythe in angry arcs, heard
him shout and whack the oxen as he tilled the ground.

Abel would stop to scratch a hog's back,
not Cain, even dogs gave him wide berth.

Strange that two sons could be so different,
should she love them both the same?

With her firstborn she'd learned mothering from animals
And when Abel came, she knew what to expect,

besides he was a smiler, a nestler and wanted to please.
Cain carried a wind around him and sometimes

he frightened her and fear gave an odd twist
to love as if to love him was a debt, an owing.

After the horror, one son's blood
darkening the earth, the other son banished,

grief broke over Eve, rising in waves breaking,
again and again until a slow subsiding began.

Abel's absence gentled and dimmed, but Cain
the thought of Cain ripped her like a cry in the night:

Why, why? What had she done wrong?


BED

Adam goes upstairs first, taking his time,
everything takes time these days,
his feet thump each step then pause.

Eve imagines him, hand on the banister,
not wanting to admit uncertain balance
or short breath, then he starts up again.

Eve pats the dog, checks his water bowl,
locks the back door and runs a finger
across the jars of pickles she'd made that day.

At the bedroom threshold she pauses to note
Adam's steady breath, the Appalachian ridge of him,
old and worn down now, like herself.

Under the quilt Eve lets her body loosen,
as the bed takes her weight, her hips ease
into the give and old aches surface. With time

she's accustomed herself to a twinge of arthritis, the heart's
odd rhythm, the sear of a critical word
or a friend's silence. These pains, no longer sharp,

have weathered like bedrock, rough edges smoothed
and blanketed. Eve unfastens from the day's tasks
wrinkled gherkins, armfuls of shirts from the line

and reaches across the rift to Adam. Her hand
rests on the parallel crest, shaped from the same rock,
the same upheavals, seasons, storms, losses

but each has eroded in its own waya wrinkle
gave way to a rivulet, an outcrop held firm,
now this new landscape: two bodies at rest.



Ann Knox's chapbook, The Dark Edge, was published last year by Pudding House Press. In addition, she has two full books of poetry: Stonecrop, winner of Washington Writers' Publishing House Prize and Staying Is Nowhere, winner of the SCOP/Writer's Center Prize.  Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, among them, Poetry, Blue Line, The Green Mountains Review, Atlanta Review, and Alaska Quarterly.  A collection of short stories, Late Summer Break, was published by Papier Mache Press.  She received an MFA from Goddard-Warren Wilson and has taught workshops and writing seminars in many venues, including The Writer's Center in Washington, DC, Antioch Writing Workshop, Aspen Summer Conference, Johns Hopkins Writing Program, and Hagerstown Community College.  For eighteen years she served as editor of the Antietam Review.









                                    

 

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