As Eve, After The Big Bang
Marie La Viña
Because it began with innocence, our story became about loss.
In the garden, you were all beginnings. How I found you becoming,
beginning that way, you and I split apart from one limb
as they would later split the atom, the way a god quarters continents,
parts the ocean, cages stars, keeps the planets swirling at a distance.
In a simpler time, there we were in a domed world,
in a sphere of unnamed things, walking about half-blind
in endless light without sun, faces buried in the other’s hair,
pressing against each other like leaves in wind, between us
this barrier of skin, this silence in search of an alphabet.
So we gave each other names, a way of touching through air.
You called my name across a river in a single sonorous voice.
To you it meant alive, inside the moment before the moment
about to happen. When whispered, it meant something else:
time, hours spent listening for footsteps in the forest
until you yawned my name in the somnolent air
and, in response, I cooed yours, which meant yes
to the other, one apart from god, yes to man. The double
syllable of your name, meant you in your flesh, I in mine.
Adam, we learned those names, though strange, distinguished
one body from another, cut figures from the dazzle of mute light
into selves. And to speak yours again, across a river of years,
is to say come as close as you can, you are never close enough.
Sometimes the garden is a mountain and the year is the first
of the 21st century. You and I sneak off to find a waterfall,
follow a brook behind the dark shadow of trees to elude
a watchful gaze. You swim and light scintillates
through the leaves, the sky a mirror curving in on itself.
The leaves overhead flutter like winged things.
Leeches cling to your skin. Your body glistens.
The cold water rises to my stomach. Below the surface,
your fingers graze my navel. My fingers graze your navel.
Do you remember?
In the trees the fruit hung glistening on the branch.
Later losing sight of you in our separate descent
into the world of the quark, the clone and the bomb,
after the bang and the fall, I would think of the fruit.
All the rest seemed a matter of course.
Cast out into the bedlam of the world,
we were severed from one another.
From rupture came expansion, amidst wreckage
of asteroid, world, and we spun outward through black
holes and light years into another wilderness.
The distance between us, through hemispheres,
created desire—a current in the brain, alone
in the bedroom of the skull—
But if the earth has been around for nearly five billion years,
is almost certainly round and strung on a cosmic orbit
in and out of which electrons spin ceaselessly to sustain
the expanding universe whose sun is very slowly burning
out into a faint luminosity aged millions of millennia
wherein a light year equals the distance light can travel
in a vacuum within 365 days equals 9.46 x 1012 km
… meanwhile, devolving, evolving among us the apes
and lions never think of, much less envy,
the opposable thumbs of humanity,
then you and I must be scintilla, mere sparks
in the brain of a disappearing god
Centuries roll by without word from you,
then the telephone is invented.
You say you’ll call every fifty years
but I keep changing phone lines, cities.
These days I’m convinced I invented the apple
from an urge to feed you with my hands.
When I feel this way, I long to hear your voice.
I think of what I’d say to you.
What hasn’t changed:
Your name in my mouth,
exempt from gravity, levitates.
In the tall grass, the glistening snake.
Inside us, the pang of our lost god.
Now I’ve come to know
the taste of many apples:
fresh, fleshy, mild, sweet, sliced,
peeled in one long spiral,
skin smooth and freckled,
bruised and dappled yellow,
golden drop, crimson crisp
and fuji apples handpicked
from a tree in someone’s garden,
wet with dew, the ripe one
washed in the grocer’s hand,
the five-petaled orchard apple,
the aromatic dulcet apple
and tart pink pearl of California,
the cherry red and spiced cider
in a wineglass, even the grapple
which imitates the grape
and—how could I forget—
the inescapable one
with the worm
squirming into the center.
Sometimes in sleep I return to the garden
the way the serpent remembers
the weight of his vanished wings.
In good dreams, the vision is clear as song,
bright as glass, sealed away.
Adam, I trust one day I’ll find you
in one of the world’s thirty thousand cities,
slipping out of a house on a balmy day,
turning the key in the lock.
We will know each other
beneath the masks of the decade.