The bite. That one bite. That defiant crunch —
“Oh God!” She begg’d as knowledge ravish’d her.
That old cliché that ignorance is bliss
Was in this act conceiv’d, but none can know —
Not really — know how knowledge felt at first
To pure primeval innocence of mind.
She knew the tree bore knowledge by its name.
She knew its juice was godhead by the hiss.
She knew the nectar’s warning, mortal threat
(But as a word yet void and without form).
For what does innocence of knowledge know?
And that seductive hiss — “You’ll be a god!” —
Could that, to infant ears, have meant so much?
She knew a little pleasure, what of pain?
She saw the fruit was bright and ripe and plump.
She dream’d of sweetness lock’d beneath the skin.
Not her belly, but her eye grew hungry.
Her mouth was wet with rich anticipation.
So pluck’d and squeezed, she held it to her lips.
Her eager senses each devour’d it,
Her teeth the last — the crunch, the burst of juice.
The willful bite, defiant bite, the crunch
Of luscious flesh, how to describe the taste?
A sudden blow! It dominated her:
The brutal knowledge of her murder’d son,
It rush’d upon her vulnerability,
With the sweetness of revenge, delight of wrath,
The brokenness of her posterity
Engender’d and took life within her mind.
A moment join’d to Generative Word,
Time vanish’d — No! It all rush’d on at once —
A wave upon her fragile body broke.
At once she knew a thousand beds and loves,
At once ten thousand births and rancid deaths.
Her helpless arms outstretch’d to stop the flood.
They bled — these feelings, pleasure, pain, and fear —
They bled together, mingl’d in her mind.
When would the feather’d glory let her drop?
“The victim or seductress, which am I?”
She ask’d aloud, but who? Who did she ask?
The hisser laugh’d beside her, she could hear.
But it was not of him that she had ask’d.
She saw inside her, waiting to be born,
Another Mother, quite unlike herself,
Who strangely fill’d her heart with awe. But why?
Beyond that blinding light she could not see.
Her eyes clench’d shut, from radiance to black
At once. And then, as if she stood outside
Herself, she turn’d to watch the trembling girl.
Her breathing slow’d. The frantic tumble stopp’d.
Now, as she watch’d the girl who ate the fruit,
Reflecting on herself within her mind —
So strange a feeling, never known before! —
She saw the juice was dripping from her chin.
She whipp’d her face, then hand against bare leg.
Her gaze explor’d her form, unknown before:
Look’d down, saw breasts and hair, and touch’d her skin.
Within her mind strange words combin’d. She spoke.
“I’m naked.” And she knew just what it meant.
She stood there all alone and felt asham’d.