Charles Fishman

Adam Remembers

I. The Garden


In the beginning, a beginning
had been made: water existed
and potential. Then the god saw
that bi-polarity was needed. I
don’t know why. Earth—also pre-
existent—floated on a skyless sea.
What light there was did not proceed
from the sun or from the uncountable
stars, nor did our moon capture
that first illumination.

That god I knew was multi-gendered
     polymorphic, delighted
in his unknowability. In this sense only
were we created in his image: androgynous
     utterly ironic.


And that god was subject to time: existence
was generated sequentially.

Eden was built for failure and for punishment.
Before we set out to know it, Eden was named.
The god lied to us about the Tree of Knowledge,
for though we tasted of its fruit, we did not die.


I was not wed to Eve, yet we ate the god’s fruit:
clearly, he had placed it in the garden for us,
for it called us to it where it gleamed like a cache
of poorly hidden jewels.

Why should one place be holy, and why was the tree
off-limits if our hunger required its gifts? if our limbs
had not been similarly restrained? Surely, the forbidden
thing should not have glowed so brightly—or have sent
into the sweet morning air a deeper sweetness.

We were two notes of a symphony, curiously dis-
harmonious, nor was the serpent our seducer
but only the instrument played by a more supple hand.
And why should we not have relished our nakedness
or the pleasures that blossomed within us—in rolling arpeggios—
when our flesh was strummed?

The god we knew was not omniscient: he did not foresee
our fall. Or he was impoverished in benevolence
and did nothing to prevent it. That deity we briefly
lived with could not know our thoughts but raged
when we hid. Yes, he was vengeful, misogynist, unforgiving,
and could not gauge our strengths: how we would run
from his fatal abandonment or seek to overcome it.
No, he was not invulnerable to discord, to denial or pain,
and he did fear us, no matter that gorging at the Tree of Life.

II. In the World of Seeing and Believing

I remember how our first-born was treated, how all
that was dark in him was drawn forth, until Abel lay dead.
Tell me, why was Cain’s forehead marked by that burning finger?
Who else was afoot on the wandering planet?

Yes, tell me, where did Cain’s wives come from?
and their children’s wives? From which unmeasurable distance
did they slither, bringing their heavy breasts and their proclivity
for murder?

After my son’s death, placed forever on the head
of my son, Eve brought me another child, also a boy.
From him, from Seth, all we have come to know as the future
would follow.

The god we knew was not the only god,
though we were required to believe this.
When was he pleased with who we were:
a parent with his flawed but prodigiously talented
offspring? Instead, this god threatened to destroy us—
and soon did, obliterating in a breath, in a long monsoon
heartbeat, billions to whom he had given life. Clearly,
Noah could not have fulfilled the letter of his mandate:
of ‘all that lives,’ many were left behind. This god loved
covenants that, later, could be broken.

He held life and death in his hands and, for most,
chose death. What malice did those creatures keep
in their small bodies? Why did the god forget Noah
and the beings he had saved? 149 days he misremembered.

III. Apartness

Much else has happened: a next thing and a next.
Through Noah, rules and a rainbow, but also drunkenness
and discord beyond telling: fall within a fall, waterfall
that will not cease tumbling.

And who did Noah learn from? who but he that had severed
the bonds of language?

The god I knew condoned slavery, adultery, capital
punishment, and set a human hand to steer the ship of nature,
so that the stars themselves might eventually be torn
from the ether. He loved strife, found peace and order a burden
more tedious and boring than grief. I don’t expect him
to come forth now from his lost lair, from the uncreated place
that cannot be regained.