Sometimes, a religious poem isn’t a religious poem at all. It can strike a particular anti-religious feel, or take a stand against a particular religious dogma. Such is the case with today’s religious poem.
Diane Lockward takes a hard stand against the traditional Biblical understanding of the Genesis account of Eve’s deception and Adam’s sin. The great forbidden fruit that led to the Fall of Man is the issue. And she is quite hard in making her point, which is the mark of the effectiveness of the poem.
In her poem “Eve Argues Against Perfection,” Diane Lockward makes us confront our own beliefs about this ancient legendary tale, and the epigraph is quite fitting as well:
And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. --Genesis 3:13Beguiled, my ass. I said no such thing. You say I lost the gift of Paradise. I couldn't lose what I never had. You say the serpent tempted me to eat. You omit that he entered the Garden on two legs and walked like a man. And here's what your story always ignores: I had pure gold, rare perfume, precious stones, but Adam hadn't touched me all those years. Perfection in the Garden didn't mean that way. Not having it and not wanting it was God's idea of perfection, not mine. So when that serpent strolled up to the tree, all upright and fine, he threw off the balance, and I began to pray, Oh let him be mine. When he held out the apple, so round and lush, when he stroked it to a keen red glow, I didn't fall to temptation - I rose to it.
I like the way Diane Lockward executes her blasphemous extended finger to God. The poem starts off strong, “Beguiled, my ass.” Perfect start for an anti-religious testament to womanish idolatry. Then the poet immediately jumps into her denial of having said that. What more could we expect?
The final line sums up the rest of the poem succinctly and in perfect brevity. Temptation wasn’t a fall at all. It was a rise to the occasion. In other words, someone had to do it; why not me?
Diane Lockward’s poem, “Eve Argues Against Perfection,” is available in her book titled Eve’s Red Dress. And, by the way, it’s a fabulous read through and through!