“you are submissive, following Adam”

 

Eve to Her Daughters

(Judith Wright, 1915 – 2000)

 

It was not I who began it.

Turned out into draughty caves,

hungry so often, having to work for our bread,

hearing the children whining,

I was nevertheless not unhappy.

Where Adam went I was fairly contented to go.

I adapted myself to the punishment: it was my life.

 

But Adam, you know ….. !

He kept on brooding over the insult,

over the trick They had played on us, over the scolding.

He had discovered a flaw in himself

and he had to make up for it.

 

Outside Eden the earth was imperfect,

the seasons changed, the game was fleet-footed,

he had to work for our living, and he didn’t like it.

He even complained of my cooking

(it was hard to compete with Heaven).

 

So he set to work.

The earth must be made a new Eden

with central heating, domesticated animals,

mechanical harvesters, combustion engines,

escalators, refrigerators,

and modern means of communication

and multiplied opportunities for safe investment

and higher education for Abel and Cain

and the rest of the family.

You can see how his pride had been hurt.

 

In the process he had to unravel everything,

because he believed that mechanism

was the whole secret – he was always mechanical-minded.

He got to the very inside of the whole machine

exclaiming as he went, So that is how it works!

And now that I know how it works, why, I must have invented it.

As for God and the Other, they cannot be demonstrated,

And what cannot be demonstrated

doesn’t exist.

You see, he had always been jealous.

 

Yes, he got to the centre

where nothing at all can be demonstrated.

And clearly he doesn’t exist; but he refuses

to accept the conclusion.

You see, he was always an egotist.

 

It was warmer than this in the cave;

There was none of this fall-out.

I would suggest, for the sake of the children,

that it’s time you took over.

 

But you are my daughters, you inherit my own faults of character;

you are submissive, following Adam

even beyond existence.

Faults of character have their own logic

and it always works out.

I observed this with Abel and Cain.

 

Perhaps the whole elaborate fable

right from the beginning

is meant to demonstrate this; perhaps it’s the whole secret.

Perhaps nothing exists but our faults?

At least they can be demonstrated.

 

But it’s useless to make

such a suggestion to Adam.

He has turned himself into God,

who is faultless, and doesn’t exist.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. A somewhat complex poem; Wright evidently has to reconcile its basis in the Edenic myth with the final apparently atheistic statement. Perhaps the reconciliation she intends is a kind of pro-environmental pantheism. Wright is a good poet and it is a good poem, but not without its difficulties.

    Reply

    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on March 8, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Yes. It is a worthwhile poem with an interesting twist. Wright might not agree with her “Eve” though.

      She was a poet who used to play on the male-female dyad a bit, with apparent enjoyment. Her poem titled I think Woman to Man comes to mind.

      Reply

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on March 8, 2017 at 11:06 pm

        Woman To Man

        The eyeless labourer in the night,
        the selfless, shapeless seed I hold,
        builds for its resurrection day—
        silent and swift and deep from sight
        foresees the unimagined light.

        This is no child with a child’s face;
        this has no name to name it by;
        yet you and I have known it well.
        This is our hunter and our chase,
        the third who lay in our embrace.

        This is the strength that your arm knows,
        the arc of flesh that is my breast,
        the precise crystals of our eyes.
        This is the blood’s wild tree that grows
        the intricate and folded rose.

        This is the maker and the made;
        this is the question and reply;
        the blind head butting at the dark,
        the blaze of light along the blade.
        Oh hold me, for I am afraid.

    • I read Wright’s poems a fair bit when younger. I don’t know too much about her later activist period which perhaps the first poem reflects. “Woman to Man” may be her most famous one, an excellent pregnancy poem.

      Reply

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on March 8, 2017 at 11:35 pm

        I read the poem as an intercourse and conception poem. Primarily.

        The other Eve poem does sound like a later composition but I haven’t checked. The use of “Other” suggests a more recent, more activist and feminist turn; although it is more the grumbling and resigned feminism of “boys will be boys and girls will follow them.”

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