I wrote this poem a few years ago when I was thinking about someone I used to love. I was also thinking about women and men in myths and in reality.
Genesis describes the Garden of Eden’s forbidden object
not as an apple but as a p’ri, a Hebrew word for fruit.
Was it a tart cherry she twisted from the twig, or a pear?
I reach for a grape, pluck it from a cluster still on the vine,
and consider my potential sin.
and consider my potential sin. I used to love a man who
rarely said he loved me in return. The word love, he said,
will spoil you.
will spoil you. My mind turns on the word spoil and its
implications as I remember that man hovering above me
in a motel room,
in a motel room, one hand anchored near my head,
the other poised to punch me square in the face.
I said, Don’t hit me. He said, I love you, then put his fist
through the nearest wall.
through the nearest wall. Spoil means more than
damage and plunder. Material dredged up from
the earth is called the spoil.
the earth is called the spoil. This makes Persephone
a spoil extracted from Hades after her brief affair
with a pomegranate.
with a pomegranate. The term also means having
an eager desire. As in, Hades spoiled for Persephone,
her skin as smooth as a plum.
her skin as smooth as a plum. As in, Adam so spoiled
for a woman that he offered a rib for her flesh to girdle.
It’s OK, I said, you didn’t actually do it.
It’s OK, I said, you didn’t actually do it. As we spoiled
to salvage what we could that night, we role-played
the story of creation, pairing fruit and seed.
the story of creation, pairing fruit and seed. The Latin
for apple and evil are mālum and malum, respectively.
This is how apple displaced p’ri in the Bible.
This is how apple displaced p’ri in the Bible. Translators
saw the chance to shift from story to signifier, which
naturally led to what was signified.
naturally led to what was signified. In the move from myth
to meaning, the apple was implicated, but so was the raised hand.