After Happily Ever After Wendy Taylor Carlisle



You’ve heard the story too, I guess, about the serpent and the kiwi—or maybe they told you it was an apple, a Granny Smith, a Red Delicious. Well, no matter, they’re wrong. No Python. No Pippin. There was a garden, of sorts, a path through the lush vegetation, the pools and runnels, but none of it had the discipline of a garden. And in case you think I was just sitting there adoring Him, I had my little job to do—to make a name for everything—Maximum Taxonomy, that’s what it was. So when I woke after one of my all too infrequent naps to find one more thing to name, her is what I thought. But she was so interested, so hang-on-a-guy’s-every-word, I have to admit I found her adorable. Who doesn’t love being worshipped?

Then I touched her just to see what she was like—I have to know the feel of skin, the temperature to name them right—and for the heft of her, I took her in my arms. Right there she twisted into snake! I didn’t mean for it to end the way it did, but only just to certify her, don’t you see, as woman—never as man’s woe—only a simple, backboned thing.

And then she said my name.


From the beginning, I was his extra bone—
before the red tent, the named virgin, the whore,
and babies brought forth in anguish, before
accusation, litigation, I was designed for devotion.
After that, all they could say was: seductress,
responsible party, lure and terror.
Those clergy,
Paul, Aquinas, none of them realized how ordinary
the moment was. No trickery, no double cross,
just my palm held out to the prototype farmer, already
in a rut, mad for my particular crop. Imagine
orchard evenings, breezes, fruit—
how they annoyed him, how boredom drove his curiosity,
how, not to eat became impossible for him
and how soon after that first bite he named his new joy guilt.


October 2003 2River