Clever, he was, so slick
he could weave words into sunshine.
When he murmured another refrain
of that shimmering promise, “You
shall be as gods,” something with wings
whispered back in my heart,
and I crunched the apple—a taste so good
I just had to share it with Adam,
and all of a sudden
we were naked.
Oh, yes, we were nude before, but now,
grabbing for fig leaves, we knew
that we knew too much, just as the slippery
serpent said—so we crouched all day
under the rhododendrons, trembling
at something bleak and windswept in our bellies
that soon we’d learn to call by its right name:
God was furious with the snake
and hacked off his legs on the spot
And for us
it was thorns and thistles,
sweat of the brow, dust
to dust returning. In that sizzling
skyful of spite whirled
the whole black storm of the future:
the flint knife in Abel’s heart,
the incest that swelled us into a tribe,
a nation, and
brought us all, like driven lambs,
straight to His flood.
I blamed it on human nature, even then,
when there were only two humans around,
and if human nature was a mistake,
whose mistake was it? I didn’t ask
to be cursed with curiosity, I only wanted
and of course that promise—to be
like gods. But then,
maybe we are like gods.
Maybe we’re all exactly like gods.
And maybe that’s our really original
From Perfidious Proverbs and Other Poems: A Satirical Look At The Bible
© Philip Appleman.
Philip Appleman is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Darwin. He and his playwright wife, Marjorie Appleman, are both “After-Life” Members of FFRF.