Monday, 6 April 2015

Judith Wright - Eve to Her Daughters (Easter)

As we prepare to celebrate Easter once more, my thoughts lead me in search of poetry that might express spiritual mystery, meaning of life.  But I like a poem that’s not too ‘heavy’, easy to read, and maybe entertaining with a bit of humour.  That’s why I’ve chosen a poem for this post from our Australian poet, Judith Wright; it’s called, Eve to Her Daughters.  I like it – it’s written in a conversational voice where I can imagine Eve (from Adam and Eve and the fall of man), is sitting down and trying to explain to her daughters how and why she and Adam see things differently – female sensual intuition vs male mechanical logic.  The little I know of Judith Wright’s life makes me think she’s suggesting in this poem that mankind and earth is being led to eventual destruction at the hands of the male of the species through a humanistic belief that scientific discovery is salvation and that it is achieved purely by man without a God providing revelation.  So the religion of science with its dependence on proof (‘demonstration’) allows no place for faith and hope in the spiritual unknown.  That’s men for you – but we obedient, ‘submissive’ women; we, with lesser ‘jealousy’, lessor ‘ego’, have not broadened the separation with God to such a point that we no longer believe.  Happy Easter ………

Eve to Her Daughters
(Judith Wright, 1915 – 2000)

It was not I who began it.
Turned out into draughty caves,
hungry so often, having to work for our bread,
hearing the children whining,
I was nevertheless not unhappy.
Where Adam went I was fairly contented to go.
I adapted myself to the punishment: it was my life.
But Adam, you know ….. !
He kept on brooding over the insult,
over the trick They had played on us, over the scolding.
He had discovered a flaw in himself
and he had to make up for it.
Outside Eden the earth was imperfect,
the seasons changed, the game was fleet-footed,
he had to work for our living, and he didn’t like it.
He even complained of my cooking
(it was hard to compete with Heaven).
So he set to work.
The earth must be made a new Eden
with central heating, domesticated animals,
mechanical harvesters, combustion engines,
escalators, refrigerators,
and modern means of communication
and multiplied opportunities for safe investment
and higher education for Abel and Cain
and the rest of the family.
You can see how his pride had been hurt.
In the process he had to unravel everything,
because he believed that mechanism
was the whole secret – he was always mechanical-minded.
He got to the very inside of the whole machine
exclaiming as he went, So that is how it works!
And now that I know how it works, why, I must have invented it.
As for God and the Other, they cannot be demonstrated,
And what cannot be demonstrated
doesn’t exist.
You see, he had always been jealous.
Yes, he got to the centre
where nothing at all can be demonstrated.
And clearly he doesn’t exist; but he refuses
to accept the conclusion.
You see, he was always an egotist.
It was warmer than this in the cave;
There was none of this fall-out.
I would suggest, for the sake of the children,
that it’s time you took over.
But you are my daughters, you inherit my own faults of character;
you are submissive, following Adam
even beyond existence.
Faults of character have their own logic
and it always works out.
I observed this with Abel and Cain.
Perhaps the whole elaborate fable
right from the beginning
is meant to demonstrate this; perhaps it’s the whole secret.
Perhaps nothing exists but our faults?
At least they can be demonstrated.
But it’s useless to make
such a suggestion to Adam.
He has turned himself into God,
who is faultless, and doesn’t exist.
In her life, Judith Wright was very active in conservation, the antiwar movement in the 1960’s and the plight of the Aboriginal peoples.  Her frustration with what is happening in the world (economic rationalism; environmental disregard) comes through in Eve to Her Daughters.  Yet note that even woman-kind with her more attuned sensual sense still cannot speak with certitude, so Eve (after blaming Adam for acting pig-headed), continues to question the meaning of life, ‘perhaps the whole elaborate fable    perhaps nothing exist but our faults?’

In my own attempt at poetry, I toy with that style where it’s some time in history ages ago and the poet imagines how the characters might have acted and felt at the time – sort of like how it is with Eve to Her Daughters.  I imagine this with characters who actually met Jesus – before anybody was ever to discover that he was famous ……..

Yes, I Remember Jesus
John’s Gospel, Chapter 1, verses 35 - 39.  Andrew and Phillip on meeting Jesus.
Yeah, me and Phillip
just happened to be helping out
with old John,
when this guy walks by,
and we’re looking at him
when John pipes up and says,
there goes the lamb of God.
The lamb of God?!
You don’t say!
We knew enough
about the lamb of God,
being John’s disciples for so long,
always going on about it, anyway
we decide to follow this, ‘lamb of God!’.
We’re sort of trailing him,
staying back a little,
when he suddenly turns around,
like he knew we were trailing him.
He says, what are you two trying to find?
Surprised us, it did
and we were a bit lost for words,
so we blurted something stupid, like
um, just wondering
where you’re staying.
I thought he would tell us
to rack off
but he didn’t.
In fact,
he invited us back to his place
and we talked
and hung out
most of the day.
John’s Gospel, Chapter 2, verses 1 - 5.  Mary on events at the wedding. 
I remember it well,
We were having such a good time at the wedding,
when word went around
that they’d run out of wine.
Like, how does that happen?
Poor organizing, I reckon.
Anyway, I mentioned it to my son
because he looked as if he was heading for a refill,
when he goes and snaps at me, Woman!
Woman! he says,
How rude!
To me his mother!
And he says, what does your concern have to do with me?
Your concern!
Well, excuse me!
My concern!?
Honestly, I could have slapped his face,
right there and then, but
he mumbles, my hour has not yet come.
Oh, pissed, I thought
I can see why there’s no wine!
And to the servants who were hanging around
I just turned and snapped
whatever he says to you, do it!
John’s Gospel, Chapter 4, verses 4 - 26.  A Samaritan woman on fetching water at Jacob’s well.
Oh, that fellow,
I remember,
bit of a charmer, he was.
It was about midday,
when I went down to the well
to get some water,
and when I gets to the well,
there’s this fella
sitting on the edge,
not bad looking, mind you,
tall, dark,
but still, a Jew,
so definitely out of my league.
Anyway, I don’t say anything,
draws the water,
and he goes and asks me for a drink.
I says, how can you, a Jew
be asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?
I was a bit cheeky,
but he takes it in his stride,
and says to me, that if I knew
I happened to be talking to God,
then I would have asked, him
for a drink,
and he, would have given me,
living water.
Now he’s being cheeky,
so I play along,
but sir, you don’t even have a bucket,
and the cistern is deep, so
how can you possibly
get this living water?
And he keeps it going, with
how you will always be thirsty again
after drinking water from the well,
but you will never thirst
if you drink living water.
I laughed, and asked him,
kind sir, to give me this water then,
so I wouldn’t have to go
to the well anymore.
He was nice.
Then he asked me
if I was married,
and I thought, here we go,
I told him I didn’t have a husband
and he comes straight back
and says I was right about that!
that I’d had five husbands,
not counting my current partner!
I’ve been to clairvoyants
who were never that clever.
I was sure he had to be a prophet,
even the Messiah
……. and he didn’t say he wasn’t.
                                                           J. O. White.

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