Poetry Friday: “When God Dreamed Eve through Adam” by Richard Chess

Adam-and-eve-by-Antonio-Molinari-1701-1704The Genesis story of the creation of Adam and Eve: poets for centuries have been attracted to it. They wonder: what was in God’s mind? In Adam’s? In Eve’s? Poets wonder and re-envision the scene. Richard Chess, in “When God Dreamed Eve through Adam” (Image #85), chooses to stay in Adam’s mind—and chooses to craft most of the poem as a long subordinate clause. The eight stanzas that hold us in suspension in this extended “when”-clause imagine Adam’s complex of emotions at his first sight of Eve. Then finally Adam crashes down into the grammar’s main clause, into a fear and terror “which he couldn’t tell from wonder”: the recognition of his and Eve’s profound “difference.” Now suddenly Adam, alarmed, sees everything in the world tossing up its “difference.” This, the poem suggests, is the free will that God gives us: will we let our differences become disastrous, destructive? Or will we enable them to “grow” as God dreamed they could?

—Peggy Rosenthal


When God Dreamed Eve through Adam by Richard Chess

When Adam saw her, muscle of a new day,
when he squatted to smell the musk
between her legs, when he leaned down

To grasp the wrist of the most familiar
creature he’d encountered yet, to pull
himself, the mirror image of himself, to her feet;

When he took a few steps back
to appraise her with the mind of sun,
the heart of moon, to praise her

With the applause of leaves bestirred,
to seduce her with the iridescence
of lizard skin, to navigate into the current of her

And be powered and transported like a fish
through a diaphanous river’s shadow and light,
to know her with every cell, every molecule, all

The atoms and elements that spun into his inception—
with all creation pulsing
in his temples, his wrist, with his unique

Talent, endowed in him by his creator, to see
beyond the moment’s garden
all the way into the geneticist’s lab,

When he stood back from her
suddenly he understood the world
would never culminate nor close with him

And he was frightened, the first, the original
terror which he couldn’t tell from wonder
as he stood there regarding what was made

Of the same stuff as he yet utterly strange—
how the world around him even then
was tossing up difference after difference,

Until maybe even they’d be tossed aside
should this new allowance for difference
not grow the way god dreamed it would

When god dreamed Eve through Adam into being.

 

Richard Chess is the author of three books of poetry, Tekiah, Chair in the Desert, and Third Temple. Poems of his have appeared in Telling and Remembering: A Century of American Jewish Poetry, Bearing the Mystery: Twenty Years of IMAGE, and Best Spiritual Writing 2005. He is the Roy Carroll Professor of Honors Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is also the director of UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies.

GL banner

Your Life Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

minecraft-chicken-hatchingOn the last night of Image’s Glen West Workshop earlier this month, after a moving concert by Over the Rhine and all manner of sniffling and hugging, Father Richard Rohr invited us to make spaces in our souls for worship.

“How you live this moment is how you live your life,” he said. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

His words nailed my heart to the floor.

I like to think I am “good” at worship. I often prepare myself by opening my hands, a posture that helps me focus. But my mind has a way of hairline-cracking within seconds: Do these people like me? Have they noticed my discolored tooth? On a scale of one to ten, how much of an idiot have I made myself today?

I like to think I lose myself in the beauty of God, but as my mind splinters and my prayerful hands go numb, I have to acknowledge that this moment of unrest reflects a life of unrest.

[Read more…]