Jeffrey McDaniel



after a color-print drawing by William Blake
Here she is, master, your little child.
See how her head slopes back, neck arched,
as if frozen in prayer, hair spilling
out of her skull in thick, amber waves,
as wisdom’s venom courses through her. See
how my scaly logic coils around her,
like bacon curling a lush piece of shrimp.
Come and get her, lord,
before I throw her on the grill.

Oh, don’t act so surprised—you knew
this would happen, dressing up
your little mousetrap like paradise,
with sycamores and starlings,
dipping sweet Eve’s tresses in jasmine,
rubbing crushed lilac between her toes
and setting her here like bait,
her fragrance loose in the wind.

You knew I was coming, lord.
You put the ticking in the apple. You placed
the fatal in the fruit. I, your slithering assassin,
your eternal patsy, merely carried out
your grimiest deed with reptilian loyalty,
so you could hero in under a balcony of stars
that always seem to depict you in a positive light.

What?! You deny it? Is the court to believe
you’re almighty in every way but this?
That even with crystal balls for pupils,
and binoculars in your fingertips
you could not foresee this?
Now you hide up there behind a sunbeam,
muttering free will. Ha! Heavily
discounted perhaps, but never free.

Oh, but you should’ve seen it, father—
how I took my time, found a little knob
in Eve’s mind and turned the temptation
up slow, till desire began to fill her
like gasoline in the belly of a boat,
starting with just one plump, purple drop,
then another, then her hull sagging,
her mouth opening. Oh, father,
just as perception trickled out of her
like the last slur of wine from a kicked over bottle,
I whispered, Dear Eve, I had to do it,
without you, I’m not Satan—just a squandered angel.
Now I’m the inventor of heaven.

But, oh, my liege, I wish you could’ve seen her
tighten her grip around that Malus Pumila
and ruthlessly test the apple’s ripeness
with a brush of her incisors—all that forbidden
knowledge about to carnival into her psyche.

She knew what she was she doing, master,
her eyes like caramel simmering,
as her lips parted, cheeks hollowing
inward to a glove, her molars
sinking into me, the apple.

I am all maple now:
skull tilted back, sinister high notes
shuddering into the dark, nethery spires
of my temples, irises quivering
like the quartz tips of metronomes,
as melted coins of moonlight
jukebox out of me.

How could something so pure and sweet
have sprung from the gypsy cauldron of my loins?

What’s that? Now you make threats
to line her pelvis with matchstick-sized grenades
so, when her offspring grinds out,
pain will ricochet through her hips
like shrapnel, till she screams your name
in labor? Talk about vanity.
Some savior you are—saving her
for yourself perhaps, you two-faced swine,
planting and pruning the tree of death
beside the tree of life. Yes, I am evil.
Yes, I am the minister of woe,
but at least I’m consistent.

And what about Adam—you’re boy wonder,
with all those ribs? Well, he climbed
the tree of curiosity, father, and he watched
thimbles of Eve’s breath lap
the shoreline of my forearm. Now he wants
to grow up to be just like me, Uncle Lucifer,
the one who cracks darkness in two
and extracts light. Her gasps,
like pink balloons leaving the hands
of children, floating up
into the never-ending space
between my ears: tremolo,
tremolo, tremolo.

Yes, my lord, you are infinite. Yes,
you control the galaxies, but this space
here between the shoulder blades
is mine. I patrol this orb, this throb
of fruit plucked from the celestial tree
and spun here recklessly.
This bruised orchard is mine.

Satan Exulting over Eve by William Blake, 1795
Satan Exulting over Eve by William Blake, 1795

JEFFREY MCDANIEL is the author of 5 books of poetry. His fifth book, Chapel of Inadvertent Joy, was just published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in the Hudson Valley.

Read more work by Jeffrey McDaniel:

Poem in B O D Y
A selection of work at The Poetry Foundation
Poem at
Article in Poetry