The Professor on Original Sin The reason I love writing poetry is that Nobody takes quite seriously the

things it says-At most, it's treated as a source of metaphor, Or else we excavate it past the literal Foundations, as if knowing as if knowing what rock Lies underneath the house explains the plumbing And why you can't get decent hot water pressure In the upstairs bathroom, no matter how you try. But that intensity of critical presumption Gives me the license to explain the simple truth Which otherwise would come to endless argument, Requiring proof and proof and proof, meeting denial Because the Bible or the social text construction Explanatory matrix will not let you think The thing you need to think to understand the problem. So put aside your notions that the poet must speak truth, And that the truth must be consistent with what you believe-Leave off your hope that truth is really beautiful And that what's beautiful will always prove out true As well, for what I'm interested in today, right here, right now, Is ugly and a lie, with ugly truth behind it. Today we learn what's really wrong with agriculture, And monogamy, and male supremacy and figs. (That's right. I did say “figs.” Fig newton figs. Those figs.) No question men have spun the story against women, Just as women have spun it against them, And men and women both have gone along quite happy To misconstruct and then mislay the blame. And all that crap about how men are superior, And all the garbage that idea drags stinking Behind it down the ages, and all the ancient grief That makes the ordinary suffering of love, Which is already quite enough to break your heart, To lift your prick or wet your crotch or make you sigh, And keep you interested in how things will turn out, Which is really all it ought to have to do, finally, Is just a logical extension of that lie About temptation in the garden, about Eve, And what she gave to Adam and the cost they paid. The version you heard said Adam and Eve were happy. There in the Garden, and that they just made one mistake. It's true that relative to all the misery They brought upon themselves, they weren't too badly off. You think they just picked berries off the willing bushes Without a care, and that is almost true, except for this: The women did the picking of the berries, always, And gathering the nuts, and generally finding food.

In fact, as typical neolithic cavemen and women, Probably seventy percent of the daily nutrition of all Was provided by women, for themselves, and children, and for men. The men were busy hunting game. Think on that word. Game. Game. Win some, lose some. The quarry gets away, And hey, next time he will have better luck, he hopes. It doesn't mean that he won't ge a proper supper. If he gets lucky, though, and lays a proper feast, The tenderest, most delicious, rarest hunk of meat, Which says, he's not just talk but really has got game, Before the female who's been eyeing him for prowess And other characteristics that make her feel willing, He may get lucky then for real, perhaps get married For three or four years or maybe twice that long, Depending on what kind of father he becomes And what else happens in the group and what the woman Decides. She may decide she doesn't want to keep him. And the whole group picks up and moves. They wander, Following the patterns of the food they hunt and gather. So at some point, some woman, call her Eve, for now, Who's constantly been seeking out new edibles, Discovers figs, how marvelously sweet and juicy, And also easily preserved simply by drying Right on the tree—you simply pick them till they're gone. And unlike nearly every form of agriculture, Fig farming does not need you understanding seeds: You break a branch off of a fig tree and you plant it. With proper treatment, soon, voila!, another fig tree. Such is the start of stationary agriculture, At least in the vicinity of where the Jews came from, That area today embroiled in civil war Because of men who would not understand this poem. (I leave it to the student to work out the case For other points of origin of sedentism.) This practice ties the group down to a locus Where women work out seeds grow to make new plants, And men hunt to extinction all the local big game. Women start tending gardens. Men domesticate Game animals, though women may have tamed the chickens And geese, which do not seem to get along with men. Eventually men figure out a way to help With planting that requires their upper body strength: It's called the plow, and it's the source of all our woe. Now suddenly the farm belongs not to the woman But to the man that works it as she cannot do, But men compete, expanding farms, beyond What they can work themselves, and they need help, A captive labor force they can command and trust. So Adam, man, once more will try domestication,

And thus the subjugation of the female sex Through marriage and subordination of the wife To husband begins. And the resulting social order Is hellish: longer working days for everyone, Inferior nutrition, boredom, cabin fever, And some mythmaking to explain the whole magilla. That's Eve defined by the labor of bearing all her children: She must become a baby factory for the farm. And man must work in the sweat of his brow all day, When he'd really rather be at some lazy occupation That gives you lots of time to think, like hunting or fishing. And the transition is not easy: here's where Cain, Who is a farmer growing grain, presents a threat To the existence of his shepherd brother Abel, Who represents an older way of being a man, Where men were not so life and death in rivalry. (The myths of masculinity are all nostalgic, From Gilgamesh right down to Tucker Max.) And agriculture makes alcohol possible, Which is some consolation, but it brings some problems. But most of all you need a culture that helps you survive By making you think these inventions and arrangements Are natural as the air you breathe, the dirt you plow. There must have been some recognition that those figs Of Eve's had somehow started the whole process, And with the need to keep women under their thumbs To keep the system of their daily lives alive, Old Adam must have figured, or else simply said, As a husband trapped unhappily in marriage, Especially if he's had a beer or two or three, So often will, “See what you made me do?” then hit her.