The Garden of Abel and Cain
A partly mowed field, stubble. A tree trunk bent nearly horizontal
skims a row of bayonet knives planted to aim at the sky.
A white-haired man walking out of the east, a youth walking out of the west stumble,
face to face. The older speaks first.
Who are you? Your face slips off like an image
on water — clear and then eyeless.
How old are you?
You are seventeen.
Of course, but you?
Give me my stolen life years!
running from the image of your
Show me your innocence, charmer.
Where do you keep it safe?
What is the sign on your forehead? leaf? hand?
Your halo. Why
die of one blow? The word Death
came to life in your body.
And Murder —
Slaughter Massacre Butchery Carnage
Others, Abel, others, I did not invent War.
We used to wrestle, even on rocky ground
I never made you bleed.
Abel, you stank of animal blood,
swinging fresh kill in my face.
I smell it on you now!
Meat, brother, not Man. You were willing to eat
from my knives.
And you devoured my bread. I invented
the plough, set millstone to the falls.
Creating a garden for our parents—
real—not the fantasy they dreamed about.
I’d watch them shed tears in their sleep.
They’d wake to smile at me in the doorway.
And if I had been the Loved Favorite?
Cain, you were!
Ever miracle of their first-born!
Did you hate me for that?
No, but alone was always best. I loved
the pasture’s sibilant hums,
animal calls without the strangling knots
of voices arguing, worse than crows.
I came home singing.
We could sing more easily than speak
Cain sings a lyrical theme without words,
Abel harmonizes, they stop.
Cain goes on speaking:
but only you had musician’s fingers —
I invented the lyre for you.
Drowned out by your chainsaw—
this twisted tree
is all you left growing for me.
Is this our garden, Abel? destroyed field?
He reaches, breaks off a hollow stalk,
tries to whistle with it, and fails.
I had carved a flute
Abel takes it to his lips and whistles.
Yes. Cain, do you remember the names
of those pieces? we called them
sound-poems, names like
“Piss Steaming on Pebbles!”
Cain, why didn’t Mother and Father sing?
Were they tone deaf?
Their ears were listening for disasters.
Afraid for happiness overheard.
Brother, are you still so innocent?
The one to whom we burned
tithes of appeasement.
Not my fault that
grain burns thinner smoke than flesh.
Why attack me?
We were instruments:
You his trumpet, I his drum.
And the world to come?
History’s harmonic equation:
Love multiplied by Envy
the square root of Eden