I may have written this poem before I knew it was "ekphrastic." I don't think such a poem is supposed to include details that are not in the painting. I hope I'll be forgiven for borrowing elements from other paintings and from rumors I'd heard about Adam and Eve.
Simon Bening (1483 - 1561) - "Border with the Creation of Eve"
God Creates Eve on a Prayerbook Page
-after painting by Simon Bening-
Supposing He delivered her,
this must be what she looked like—unclothed,
kneeling, her curve of Flemish belly exposed,
clean from the bone. Her hair, like glass,
concealed no skin (even on the oval cranium)
and tendrils ribboned down,
ticklish, to her fanny, funny bulbs. Adam
seemed a dear, dreamed, leaned
on one elbow, wore nothing but his curled coiffure.
God had clothes galore—
Crown, cloak, robe of illuminations blue,
beard, a bit like Charlemagne’s, aflower.
In the foreground, he teaches—His upraised fingers
a show of Wisdom. He wonders how,
two days after the giraffe and studious pigeon,
He’s caused an unlessonable creature,
docile and douce now
when everything’s asleep on the occasion
of her creation, no stirring in the apples, no
ripple in the pools
the gothic fountain pours, no
crawling in the lawn where
every lily, every berry’s as intact
as her gentle ankle and folded ear.
There’s a strange thing about the mouth, though.
It smiles as if it knows a thing or two.
How? It is so new.
The painter, receding, depicts a later hour
by a dim stream where a calf grazes
and another laps. He stages the sin scene:
from Devil to our Eva to her mensch.
Wife and husband taste
a bite and disappear,
falling off an edge of the picture
waving, calling, open-mouthed, “O!
Goodbye! It is a shame!”
Think how they will look for work, move
to a development,
have a baby, more work, other babies,
and will never get tenure. They will dream
of the place they used to play, a place
like a tapestry. One thread hung
from a knot of figs, shining.
She tugged it, for the fun
and saw a whole garden come undone.
from Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2006)
© 2018 Sarah White
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