Frances Klein is a high school English teacher and poet. She was raised in Southeast Alaska, and has since migrated to Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband Kris.
Eve ate the apple/cause the apple was sweet
There wasn’t never no snake.
Seems it got added later to make some kinda
when there wasn’t never meaning
to begin with.
How could there have been?
Poor girl thing, half mad from the first.
Couldn’t have been any different,
torn as she was from my heartcage
wakened full grown like that gal of Zeus’s,
but vacant. Empty.
I’ve read that book of theirs.
We come across as babes in the woods,
pure in his image, naming and ruling
an endless, elysian expanse
fish and fowl and all. Nonsense.
Weren’t no “walked with them in the cool of day” neither.
What moved us, moved with force
wordless, nameless as the deep ocean pressure.
Wasn’t no sleep when she came to be,
just force and pain and blood.
And then her.
She didn’t need no snake.
Trouble from the day she was made, that one.
Must have knocked the dates down
with a stick, scrapes up and down her long legs
showing maybe she’d tried
to shinny up the rough trunk first.
When I came on her she was crouched
on the fruits, one hand pressed
to keep the dates from spilling
from her mouth, the other hefting
a nasty looking rock knife and a glint
in her eyes louder than any cry.
Got the sharing part wrong too,
that book did.
There wasn’t no warning come then.
Wasn’t no angels.
Just the force and the pressure
and the searing sun.
Didn’t know what I’d lost until later,
but I learned.
Learned about hunger
Learned about thirst
Learned even more about pain,
and I thought I knew all there was about that.
Yet wasn’t never anything sweeterthan the taste of dates on her tongue.
The cherries meant for my pie
have rotted. Left too long
they are oversoft,
pooling a clotted, congealed
mess on the green-leaf
pattern of the bowl. I am arrested
by them, how the fruit moved forward in time
without me, the loamy,
bitter juice as I suck
at a finger,
whorls outlined in rust.
Outside the wind sucks
at the trees, magnolia petals falling
slowly to the ground.
The shrill of the timer
reminds me of the crust waiting
in the oven, anticipating
what should have been its center.
The apron slips.
One, two fingers brush the pan,
the sudden smell of burning flesh
mingling with the scent of magnolias.
The bowl falls and the fruit moves again
without me, the shattering of the bowl
synchronized with the click of the record player,
Nina Simone singing
blood on the leaves,
blood at the root.
I can protect you. Not with guns
or knives, and not with my fists,
small as they are, but in the only civilized competition
left to us: the spelling bee.
I’m the fastest letter slinger east of the
Aleutians, and you can be damned sure
that from Barrow to Bethel to Baranof Island
you better believe it, there’s no one but me. The way
I keep my I’s before E’s is a sight to see,
and I lay down Latin suffixes so smooth
it makes women weep, makes them want
to take me home and feed me
soup while they buff away imaginary
spots on my trophy with a shirt sleeve.
Those washed up fishermen won’t have
a chance, their
hey baby is that an m-i-r-r-o-r,
hey baby are you an a-n-g-e-l
petty phonemes, their offer of
two tickets to the gunshow withering
at the way I whisper
in your ear, double m, single n,
humming consonants that captivate
while I steer you to a corner booth with one
hand in your back jeans pocket, where
I trace syllables down your spine, spelling
victory on your vertebrae.