Sara McWhorter

Before the First Day

It was before God created the heavens and the earth,
before God could even count to seven,
that the poets existed. They just didn’t know it yet.

So when the holy semi truck hauled
the land and sky through the nothing
and placed it where it should go,
it was the poets who built the ridges and the waterways
and it was they who requested the light.

And when there was light, they saw how good
the light was and they named the light “day”
and the darkness they called “night.”

And they sang about the day and night
and wrote their songs down and their songs
turned into every kind of plant that bears
seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it
and every living creature, except Man.

Man was all God’s doing, for man
was created in his image: male and female
he created them.

On the seventh day while God was resting,
(although he was not tired. After all,
he only made Man and it was easy for him
because he simply copied himself,
but in lesser form.) the poets,
in serpent form, went to have a chat with Man.

Man was resting beneath an apple tree when
the poets found him and wished him good day.
Having gained Man’s trust, the poets offered him
a beautiful apple of their making. Man ate of it
and was satisfied.

Meanwhile, God awoke from his nap
and realized what had happened. Jealousy ensuing,
he banished the poets from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures
and made the poets into Man’s likeness
so that they might not ruin man forever.

To Man he said: “Because you have known beauty
greater than any I can bestow upon you and because
you will never be fulfilled again without knowing beauty,

Cursed be the poets because of you!
In toil shall they suffer
to bring forth beauty
all the days of your life.

Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth
to them,
as you reap the benefits of their fields.

By the sweat of their faces
shall you drink and be quenched,
until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dirt,
and to dirt you shall return.”

The poets moved away from Man, after this,
and continue to live isolated lives
filled with sorrow for all the rest of their days.