“Applecalypse” John Agard

I know this is a long one, dear galleons, but I promise you, it’s well worth it. At least in my opinion. Then again, we are all well aware of my obsession with the character of Eve, so I may be the only one who enjoys this delightful piece.

I hope not.

Besides, any work that manages to slip in the word chicanery gets immediate bonus points.

***

I

Eva, mind if I call you Eva?
Have you got something against fruit?
Come on Eva speak the truth.

Have you truly experienced
the absolute yum of plum
the afterglow of avocado
the summery of strawberry
the fleshy figment of fig?

Don’t tell me you’re allergic
to the mythic munch of pomegranate
the oracular pulp of orange
the glandular grapple
with a simple apple.

A veritable juice downpour
in the valley of the throat.
And if I may misquote:
‘An apple a day keeps the devil away.’

II

If all that apple spiel
doesn’t make you feel
to tongue steal
and unpeel
the little orb
shining as anything
from the harvest
of Hesperides

If all that apple hype
doesn’t make you a ripe
target for marketing –
a prime sampler
of the puckered product –
and it won’t cost a buck
today you’re in luck
Then answer me truly –
when again will you get this chance
to combine Vitamin C
with a thirst for ecstasy?

III

Such a difficult customer, this Eva.
I wonder what makes her waver –
so irresistible, when irresolute,
I, for one would certainly crave her
if I were dissolute.
But she knows me better than anyone.
She’s already seen through my snakesuit.

My God, she’s testing my powers to ad lib.
All right Eva, I take what you say
about this business of the rib:
that the whole thing was rigged.
Of course it was your arching bone
– nothing to do with the Most High throne –
and with a little help from a hissing word,
that launched Adam on his way
from that nondescript bed of clay.
Now he’s off naming, blissful as a bird.
Sometimes I get the urge to rib him.
But we’ll keep that our little secret.

Anyway, back to the business of fruit.
Let’s get down to taking temptation by the root.

Come on Eva.
Try a half.
Between us
we could write
an epitaph
to the forbidden.

Bite.

IV

And after she had bitten
her face was burdened
with a glow most sweet
And all that first man
back from a bout of naming
could say was ‘Helpmeet

There’ll be trouble from above.’
For he who had given names
to creeping thing and flying form

Had stumbled on no word for Love.

V

And even as his teeth were sunk into the apple globe
he felt for a split second at the crossroads.
Part of him was succoured by the unnamed juice
Part of him fearing the sword of Justice.

Well Adam, boy, allow me to say
you’ve come a long way from anonymous clay.
Knowledge is beginning to open its door.
So bite on. Explore the cavern of the core.

But expect some retribution from the Big Chief
That Sovereign of the straight and narrow path.
So I’ll be brief as the famous fig leaf
that will adorn the altar of your private parts.

Helpmeet. Is that all you could call your better half?
She who weaned you to the wisdom of the grass
and succumbed to the secret of the stars.
Adam, believe me, Eva knows where it’s at.

Never mind that flaming advocate of wrath
Who will call your rapture insolence.
What’s Eden after all but a den of innocence.
Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Thinking of all the sunlight and the rain
that goes into the grooming of a single apple.
If my argument seems serpentine and subtle
Now accept the pleasure without the pain

Turn your back on Eden for the endlessly possible
See temptation as bounteous bendiction.
As for original sin? A clear misnomer.
A chicanery of words. A sleight of tongue.

That stirring of limb for limb and skin for skin
Is not exactly what I would call sin.
That ancient urge to bridge the solitary abyss.
Come on you two. Go for it. The first kiss.

VI

And so the mouth held forth its promise
like a baboon’s pleasurable pouch noticed
for the first time, signalling another path
crooked and wide as temptation,
shedding in a split second its innocent tongue
for one only the gospel of flesh could fathom.

And he whose mouth was given to naming
was suddenly silenced by the un-utterable
And she to who apocalypse was apple
trusted in the testament of the moment
since eternity was void of sound and scent.
Thus the tongue exalted in its own oracle.

And how I hissed to the beat of Revelation
and gloried in the frailty of right and wrong.

VII

The first unrecorded kiss.
Then Eden thrust its pelvis
in the face of you know who.

And who’ll blame those original two
for wanting to try out their tongue
when a noun was a beautiful bliss.

So I’ll tread with them
the cobble stones of temptation.
But I’ll lift their feet towards the horizon

even as they stumbled, my frail ones.

VIII

Only the serpent in the dust
Wriggling and crawling.
Grinned an evil grin and thrust
His tongue out with its fork.
Christina Rossetti: Eve

No, Christina, I did not grin an evil grin.
In fact I wished them luck in their new enterprise
pleased with myself for having opened their eyes
to the limitations of Paradise.

No one in their right mind would suggest
that this pair had just committed original sin
so wondrous the sun shone
in the sanctuary of their skin
and what was done could not be undone.
If you looked keenly you’d detect a certain glow
as if guilt had wrapped them in its subtle bloom.
But there was no room for regret
or ruminations on the pros and cons of sin.
Adam had a sheepish schoolboy sort of grin
as if he had braved the headmaster’s cane
and secretly would do the same again.
Besides, he could always pass the blame
and say she talked him into it.
But my God, how he’d miss assembling
those animals and given each a name.
If they could counsel him now, would fowl and beast
pity his mortal trembling?

Eva meanwhile picked a myrtle sprig
and made it into the first ribbon
So Eden lingered in her hair.
And in the final moment of their parting
she thought she saw the serpent raise
the formidable flower of his eye
and she knew that look
would be companion to her solitary days
like a perfumed petal pressed between a book.

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