Jee Leong Koh
Eve, whose fault was only too much love
—Aemilia Lanyer, “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum: Eve’s Apology”
God won her when he whipped out from his planetary sleeve
a bouquet of light. They watched the parade of animals pass.
He told her the joke about the Archaeopteryx, and she noted
the feathers and the lethal claws, a poem, the first of its kind.
On a beach raised from the ocean with a shout, he entered her
and she realized, in rolling waves, that love joins and separates.
The snake was a quieter fellow. He came in the fall evenings
through the long grass, his steps barely parting the blades.
Each time he showed her a different path. As they wandered,
they talked about the beauty of the light striking the birch,
the odd behavior of the ants, the fairest way to split an apple.
When Adam appeared, the serpent gave her up to happiness.
For happy was she when she met Adam under the tree of life,
still is, and Adam is still Adam, inarticulate, a terrible speller,
his body precariously balanced on his feet, his mind made up
that she is the first woman and he the first man. He needed
her and so scratched down and believed the story of the rib.
She needed Adam’s need, so different from God and the snake,
and that was when she discovered herself outside the garden.
Jee Leong Koh is the author of the poetry collections Steep Tea (Carcanet Press, 2015), Payday Loans (Poets Wear Prada, 2007), Equal to the Earth (Bench Press, 2013), and Seven Studies for a Self Portrait (Bench Press, 2011), and a collection of poetic essays, The Pillow Book (Math Paper Press, 2012). Shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, his work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. Hailing from Singapore, Jee currently lives in New York.
Photo ©2010 by Cathryn Lynne
This poem appears in Steep Tea and is posted here with the kind permission of Carcanet Press.