Eden's Cur

by Steven L. Peck


1. What we lost in the Fall


You asked me tonight if I missed Eden.

I do. I miss the delicate vapor rising from the

ground to water the garden. I miss the

strolls with you, laughing about our naked absurdities . . .


Yet.


The snow is starting to fall and I shake off

the memories. Our coats, made by a god,

have grown threadbare and holey, letting in

wind that bites through to gooseflesh


You say you will start a fire, I nod,

implying you are better at it than I, or do

I suggest that so I don’t have to move? motivations

are not as clear here as in Eden


A cur stalks the edges of the fire

watching us, watching the pair of doves

turning on a spit, fat dripping noisily onto the

coals. It will get nothing. Still it circles, tail


tucked close, ears flat,

its belly a hollow khôra.


2. The puma


When the lion screamed,

We stared into the darkness,

Eden’s hound longest.


3. Things were hard in the lone and dreary world—


After the Fall you played piano in a hotel bar

smoky, filled with lusty travelers, empty-souled sots,

drunk, stuffing dollars into your jar hoping

to lure you back to their shabby earth.


You sang songs we learned in the garden,

your voice low, Cherubim-like, sultry,

promising life and healing,

but the clientele could only pick out the


hooks and riffs available to their shallow natures.

My heart broke that you had to endure their gaze,

and slap away their mechanical hands. But by

the sweat on their face we were to earn our bread.


And me?


Swabbing out subway toilets, bagging sticky

condoms, wiping shit from the seats with

industrial chemicals that burned my eyes and

soul, and always, always, always,


dreaming of Eden and the days before we

ate the fruit and God flung us away. I could

remember it so well! The sunlight on flickering leaves,

watching the flora and fauna until we could name them all!


Until that day. Between two stalls I found the

cur that had followed us from paradise, covered

in pus-yellow sores and cigarette burns, its lips

bared in a breathy, drowned snarl, death nearby


smirking.


I carried it to the lounge and you wept

and we walked out abandoning our jobs

cradling the dog, a dying remnant of Eden.


You said, We can’t go back to the Garden


but we will build one here or we will surely die . . .


4. I kill the snake


I was wrong. I admit that.

But you would come home from

your walk and gush on about

what the snake had said.


It was so wise. So Clever!

All day you would sit below

it and listen to its stories.


You learned about quarks

and black holes, and tiny

strings vibrating in an

ether, mysterious with

chaotic strange attractors.


Knowledge! It said, was

the currency of meaning.

You would go away, leaving

the naming to me. Alone.


I saw you hunger for what

the snake offered

it was in your eyes—

they sparkled when


you spoke of the beast.

It told you of the fruit,

that would open your

dancing eyes, full of light.


One night I hunted it

down. I grabbed it.

Swung it round and round

bashing its head against


that fruit-laden tree

which tempted you so.

The next morning you

found the snake dead.


Murdered. Enough,

you said and took

the fruit and ate

and held it out for me.


You were right.

I took the next bite.

When the Lord appeared

walking in the cool of the


day. He looked down

at the slain snake

and said, Leave this

place. Never return.


I do not know why the

dog followed us out.


5. The nanny


You did not like taking

Cain to the shelter

so we lived out of our car.

We did this and that for

gas money while the

bright one-eyed cur

watched the

boy tethered in a harness

to a tree

in the copse by the

slow river.


6. Mortal coil


The corn is as high as Abel stands

and he and Cain are playing

hide and seek among the green

stalks. The dog wags its tail and

barks, playing with them. Helping.


It is time for chores so I call

the boys in and Abel goes to

help weed with you among the

carrots, cabbages, and potatoes.


Cain heads for the barn

to care for the rabbits

we raise for fur and flesh.


How I love this place:

You, Eve,

the boys

the rich and fertile land.


Here even the snakes play

their role to keep the mice at bay


Outside of Eden it is

strange how much death

it takes to sustain life.


7. Long time gone


I buried you next to our boy

Abel and the cur—both ages dead.


I marked the date of Abel’s death

in Afghanistan on the stone,

so long ago buried that the sharp-edged

etching has smoothed and softened.


I think the cur could not live without

Him, and somehow knew on the day the

shrapnel tore him in two, so far away.

It howled long and the same day collapsed.


Cain never accepted Abel’s

sacrifice and still bears

the scar on his forehead

where he was clubbed by

a righteous patriot during the

protest of the war Cain hated.


He stands now

weeping by the cornfield

For you, for Abel,

for the cur


and for all who abide

outside the flaming swords

guarding the way back.




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