Adam and Eve, A Poem by Tony Hoagland

I was given the book Donkey Gospel by Tony Hoagland as a gift.  I’ve read each poem many times over and although the book is male centered, I enjoyed every one.  He’s a bit raw in his words, but I find the raw-ness very real.  This is my book of poems recommendation as of late.  This poem, Adam and Eve, one of my favorites poems of all time, has had me pondering his questions deep into many a night.

Adam and Eve

I wanted to punch her right in the mouth and that’s the truth.

After all, we had gotten from the station of the flickering glances
to the station of the hungry mouths,
from the shoreline of skirts and faded jeans
to the ocean of unencumbered skin,
from the perilous mountaintop of the apartment steps
to the sanctified valley of the bed–

the candle fluttering upon the dresser top, its little yellow blade
sending up its whiff of waxy smoke,
and I could smell her readiness
like a dank cloud above a field,

when at the crucial moment, the all-important moment,
the moment standing at attention,
she held her milk white hand agitatedly
over the entrance to her body and said No,
and my brain burst into flame.

If I couldn’t sink myself in her like a dark spur
or dissolve into her like a clod thrown in a river,
can I go all the way in the saying, and say
I wanted to punch her right in the face?
Am I allowed to say that,
that I wanted to punch her right in her soft face?

Or is the saying just another instance of rapaciousness,
just another way of doing what I wanted then,
by saying it?

Is a man just an animal, and is a woman not an animal?
Is the name of the animal power?
Is it true that the man wishes to see the woman
hurt with her own pleasure

and the woman wishes to see the expression on the man’s face
of someone falling from great height,
that the woman thrills with the power of her weakness
and the man is astonished by the weakness of his power?

Is the sexual chase a hunt where the animal inside
drags the human down
into a jungle made of vowels,
hormonal undergrowth of sweat and hair,

or is this an obsolete idea
lodged like a fossil
in the brain of the ape
who lives inside the man?

Can the fossil be surgically removed
or dissolved, or redesigned
so the man can be a human being, like a woman?

Does the woman see the man as a house
where she might live in safety,
and does the man see the woman as a door
through which he might escape
the hated prison of himself,

and when the door is locked,
does he hate the door instead?
Does he learn to hate all doors?

I’ve seen rain turn into snow then back to rain,
and I’ve seen making love turn into fucking
then back to making love,
and no one covered up their faces out of shame,
no one rose and walked into the lonely maw of night.

But where was there, in fact, to go?
Are some things better left unsaid?
Shall I tell you her name?
Can I say it again,
that I wanted to punch her right in the face?

Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness.
As long as there is desire, we will not be safe.

-Tony Hoagland

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3 thoughts on “Adam and Eve, A Poem by Tony Hoagland

  1. I substituted “I wanted to punch her right in the face” with “My rage run mad without a case” and then the poem made all the sense to me. The truth varies, after all.

    Interesting poem. Made me want to read the rest of them.

      • Then one must read that poem some day.
        Today, I was more interested in these lines:

        “I’ve seen rain turn into snow then back to rain,
        and I’ve seen making love turn into fucking
        then back to making love,
        and no one covered up their faces out of shame,
        no one rose and walked into the lonely maw of night.”

        Maybe because I’ve seen all the above also, and no one covered their faces in shame, no one rose and walked away. Not without returning for more, that is.

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