Sitting with Eve: A Poem for the Mother of the Living

Advent and Christmas are over. I am a bit saddened, probably for reasons one would not guess. Frankly, I miss having recognized liturgical seasons in which the church is "permitted" and expected to dwell on biblical women. As a cradle Catholic, I have a soft spot for Mary, but I am also taken by so many other women of scripture, especially in the Hebrew texts. I want to spend more time with these women, imaginatively more so than anything else. I want room to playfully consider their depth and breadth of character and experience, and to consider such play as an act of faith and holy curiosity.

In her book, The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris reflects on poet John Keat's idea of "negative capability," the notion that artists can be open to engaging the world without fixed constraints and closed contexts. For Keats, such imaginative considerations allowed for empathetic and expansive readings of people and contexts "...when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

I am drawn to applying such poetic readings to scripture, and to Kathleen Norris' belief that adopting a poetic voice can lead to revelations and epiphanies: "One might grow in faith much as one writes a poem. It takes time, patience, discipline, a listening heart. There is precious little certainty, and often great struggling, but also joy in our discoveries."

So, I have been sitting poetically with Eve, the mother of the living, the woman who existed for so long without other women, the woman whose chiefly remembered identity is that of having fallen short. I have been sitting with Eve and imagining what number of things she might say or sing if given a voice. And this is what I have playfully conjured up, Eve as poetess. I wonder what other women would get out of sitting with Eve?

The Poetess

If I am so simple
that you should think
my very first words led to sin,
So that birthing was always curse and pain,
then wisdom's fool should look again.

Of those early days
You suppose me mute,
named and claimed without refute,
Silenced and summoned
to holy pages,
The anointed scapegoat by your anointed sages.

But evening came before that fateful morn,
before the apple, before the scorn,
When in steady darkness I made light
of sound, spilling my name on fertile ground.
Tousling words about my mouth
with sweet arousal as thoughts slipped out.
And parting coyly with such one by one,
New life gave birth at the tip of my tongue.

So breathless in haste
My own naming came
vying for space in Eden's places.
I turned each cadence in my mind
and with sweetsong chantings, and lyrical rhymes
I baffled Adam in eternal time.
I doubled named the soil and earth-
harbor, home, haven, hearth,
and reveled in those pregnant hours,
with the play and gift of creative powers.