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Franz von Stuck, “Adam and Eve,” detail

347 words

1) Adam

He’d pray if he knew how,
but his brain at this stage
can only concentrate
on simple survival. Now

is more important than
a blue-haired afterlife,
than a spiritual struggle
in which half-sentient men

must make a choice: between
a serpent and a god.
His cave has no bear skulls,
no finger-painted scene.

There is no chipped flint spear-
head on his wooden staff.
He knows this: hunger, lust,
rain, sunshine, snow and fear.

Himself prey amid the tall
trees of the primal forest,
he’s innocent—untouched
by any imagined fall.

2) Eve

What was she then, using
her teeth to strip raw flesh
from the rib of an aurochs?
Was there any musing

in her fierce female eye,
or was there only want,
a brute babe in her womb,
the predator-filled sky

above her tangled hair?
Compelled to eat the fruit
hanging from the tree
nearby the serpent’s lair,

she was shaped by a life
of stalking and devouring.
The hunter and the hunted,
she was Adam’s wife.

3) Cain & Abel

Surely they were aware
of death; as boys the bones
of beasts were their most loved
possessions. They’d trap a hare

nearby its warren, bash
its skull against a rock,
enjoy the steaming brains,
warm on their tongues, then dash

back to the fire-lit cave
to help skin hides. A bear
skull would become all they
knew of deity, save

the roar of thunder, flash
of lightning. Adam, in his
nine-hundredth year, would offer
the bear skull ochre ash,

and yet it looked back coldly.
Only Abel could
appease the empty eyes
with rhino liver, boldly

going out each dawn
with a staff tipped with flint.
Cain with his wooden spear
began to wish him gone.

Never before had two men
killed for anything
but the flesh of beasts,
and the breasts of women.

Standing over the corpse
of his dead brother, Cain felt
relieved. The sky was silent;
a white cloud sailed on course.

Abel wouldn’t be missed,
he thought. Both Eve and Adam
wept, and cursed the serpent,
though it had never hissed.


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