Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Another Afternoon in the Garden


Image from the Wikimedia Commons.

Another Afternoon in the Garden

by Ingrid Steblea - CC BY-NC-SA

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” –Genesis 2:19
Adam grips the tool loosely in his left hand, poking at the dirt.

He cocks his head and studies it, backing away, brow
furrowed. “Trowel,” he says. Then, “Spade.” Eve watches
from the quince grove where she has just finished grafting
the shoots of a new cultivar onto rootstock. Hands full,
she scratches an itch, rubbing her forehead against tree bark.
It has been a long day. She rose before dawn. While Adam slept
beneath the fragrant frangipani, she checked the stakes
of the fruit trees, the branches for signs of canker.
She made the morning meal. He pushes figs into his mouth
with his thumbs, his jaw working like one of the cows
in the cornfields, muttering, “Chew, chew, chew.
Munch, crunch. Masticate, ruminate. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.”
After washing the bowls she nicked and notched
the espaliered pear. She watered and mulched the scarlet
runner beans and weeded the amaranth beds. She cannot
remember what color her hands are when they are clean.
Her hair bristles with twigs. She reeks of sweat and labor.
Adam’s soft hands smell of the rosewater she brews
each full moon. Clutching the chisel, the knife, the lopping
shear, she prowls for something else in need of tending.
The grass is thick beneath her feet. Bushes droop
with heavy blossoms. If she knows Adam,
it will take him all afternoon to collect the flowers
for the evening table, whispering, “Efflorescence,
inflorescence. Umbel, panicle, cyme.”
The garden spreads before her, green groves, florid
floral profusions, the golden fields and the meadow beyond.
An eternity of weeds to wrench from the earth,
a damnation of black flies and gnats. Day after day,
bending and stooping, the ache in her back like a curse.
He drops the spade and the dandelions he plucked
and ambles over to the tree. That tree. The one he cannot name.
He cannot name it if he cannot touch it, he whines; cannot taste it.
“How about persimmon,” she urges him. “No . . .” he sighs.
“How about bittersweet, then? Chokecherry? Kill-a-man?”
“No, no,” he groans, braiding daisies into his hair. “That’s not it, not it.”
She rolls her eyes, heaves herself to her feet
and leaves to dig the irrigation trenches for the banana trees.

He rolls over in the deep grass nap, mumbling, “Arduous. Onerous. Hard, hard work.”
If only she were not utterly alone here. If only there was another like her.
Is it too much to ask that he show some initiative? Is it too much to ask
that he pull his own weight, wash a bowl, get his hands dirty? Behind her,
Adam calls her name. She turns on her heel, thrusts the shovel’s blade into the soil. “What now?” she says.
He scrunches his nose the way he does when he is thinking, or smells rotting fruit.
“Did you hear that?”
She looks to the branches where she heard the hiss,
catches a flash of copper scale, a flicker of pink tongue.
Adam scratches his chin. “Unknown,” he offers.
“A mystery. Crisis! Opportunity.”

From LCRW 12-33 on the Small Beer Press Creative Commons page.