When first they told me the serpent beguiled her
I pictured her eyes knocked loose and rattling round
like the gizmo you'd take with you into the closet
and pump with your thumb to make the red and blue sparks.
You needed the darkness. You needed the quiet
You needed the whisper of sleeves on your cheeks.
Most you needed the shelf where your father's brown hats
squatted like toads, forget about sparks—
the mouth, not the eye, is the holy portal.
Hats with cool satin bellies and stained satin bands
that I put to my tongue when alone in their dark,
compelled by the mystery of his old sweat.
And this much I knew: such an outlaw rite
commanded adult fury in the open. You could not
speak of sucking the hats' bowls to your face,
or of licking the grosgrain of their sweat-darkened ribbons:
there was no way to explain why you even wanted this.
Let them think I was in there fooling with my Black Cat sparker
and not tasting for wax that came out of his ears,
not hungry for everything about him that was forbidden.
God cursed the snake: Thou shall eat nothing but dust—
but wasn't Snake a scapegoat for the wrong
that God himself had done? To name
out of all paradise the one thing denied her,
so Eve would spend those first days walking round
with apple apple filling hours in her head?
Sour, sweet—how it tasted went unsaid. Either way,
I doubt the fruit lived up to what she would expect.