Linda McCullough Moore

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Garden of Eden

The serpent—snake, when he’s at home—
devil of a guy, slender/slim, nice suit, good haircut,
selling pomegranates door-to-door,
a Jesuit, a Pharisee, his mother said he’d make a lawyer.
Up right–snakes walked the earth—but hardly upright.
Be upstanding, as they say at the Old Bailey.
But posture isn’t everything.

He doesn’t ask the woman, Are you hungry?
Do you like to try new things?
The devil asks Eve, “Do you believe he loves you?”
Up/down/yes/no/not sure/can’t tell/absolutely.

Define your terms: the little boy, he loves his goldfish,
scoops him from the bowl and puts him on the rug
to play. He wants the goldfish to be free.
Nothing he’ll say no to.

It doesn’t take a chasm to wean a soul away.
A fracture crack will do: an old priest who tells
young men how doubt is really a good thing, a snake
who comes around when Adam is at work.

“Do you believe he loves you?”
Oral argument: “If he did, would he say no to you?”
Love is never having to say, “Don’t eat that.”

The reptile’s got one scene, two lines, and hits the dust.
His curse worse because he was more crafty
than any beast of the field
. Perhaps more charming.
(To whom much is given, etcetera etcetera.
Lo, Low, how the mighty are fallen. And so forth.)
But this is not his story. His fate sealed before the Lord
made man and from his rib his mate.

He asks again. The maiden, let’s call her that,
crinkles up her eyes, snake charmer charming;
he is not unattractive, devils often not.

When does it start? Are we to date The Fall of Man
from the first bite, or from its contemplation.
Let the record show: when does the sin begin?

The question still in echo on that morning:
“Do you believe he loves you?”

Eve bows her head, looks up again.
“Honestly?” she says.
“Not the way I want.”

“Garden of Eden,” read by Linda McCullough Moore.


We always think it’s something you can see,
a korban, bulls, young doves in barbeque.
That wild and wooly woman, money-money,
no chocolate all of Lent. Abraham imagined
it was Isaac. A simple mistake.

Sacrifice, a project, taking half the morning,
skins to the priests, meat to men and women,
fat asizzle, olah: that which goes up in smoke,
for the Lord.

Sacrifice, begun for skins. Adam tapes a fig
leaf to his sex—we shine the flashlight there—
God drapes him head to foot in furry hide.
Sacrifice: it’s how you get yourself a cover.

Cain’s offering prettier than Abel’s.
The veggie plate. We want to offer Jesus
vichyssoise. Blood makes a royal mess.
Let’s not pretend.

Asaph, son of Berechiah, in his Psalm
quotes the Lord God Almighty:
“If I was hungry, would I tell you?”

Sacrifice, He says, don’t sacrifice. There is
winsome in his wily ways: I will have mercy
and not sacrifice
, he says. Pronouns please,
who’s having mercy? Who? To whom given?

Burnt offerings doing belly bumps with grace.
Take God’s picture and He disappears. Come
let us reason together
, know this, seek wisdom,
gain understanding. Ponder longer. Go Fish.

But who wants a God who fits inside
the glove compartment?

I do.

Sacrifice. Don’t sacrifice. I’m quoting here.

I will have mercy,
not sacrifice.
Both together.

What Faith

Disbelief is not the same
as not believing. Disbelief
makes noise, guffaws, sends
Christians witty puns: The
bread of life is risen. LOL
That sort of thing. Disbelief
needs company, goes crazy
after just one Saturday of
quarantine. Smokes Mary Jane
for eye health and inspiration.

Not believing loves the
isolation, says we’re all good
people, bottles up the milk of
human kindness, trumpets
quietude. Makes charity a thing.
And at the cross of Jesus,
Not believing shakes her head,
she disapproves entirely.

Disbelief says, “This is crazy.”
But standing by the empty tomb,
he’s the one who sticks his head
inside, calls out, “Is anybody home?”
He’s it is who registers the echo.

Muddy Water

Every fifteen seconds a child dies
from drinking contaminated water
I say, and you tell me you need
something to read at the beach,
and no damn poetry.
But this is not a poem, it’s a fact.
I know, I know, you don’t like
numbers. But who’s counting? as you say
when you are drunk. Let them drink wine,
that time the beggars grabbed at your coat
in Venice after we got off the train, the water
of uncertain potability, we parched;
it took the better part of one long afternoon
to get us wet again. Were you ever thirsty?
Did your hands cup dirty water, bring it
to your lips, before you spat and swatted air
to swear you’d kill for water; though you settled
for a beer that time in Chad, in a clear bottle,
with ice. The only ice within a hundred miles
would find its way to you.
We are what we drink. Let’s think:
Who decides these things? Who chooses
who gets root beer, lemonade, and who,
thin mud to drink?
Let’s say it’s God.
Shut off the spigot while we point at him.
Don’t mix your drinks. Stick with Scotch.
The devil take the hindmost. He has had
a lot of practice.
Run fast. Don’t spill a drop.
I want to say, They’re gaining on us,
but they’re not.

Linda McCullough Moore is the author of two story collections, a novel, an essay collection and more than 350 shorter published works. She is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, as well as winner and finalist for numerous national awards. Her first story collection was endorsed by Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize, and equally as joyous, she frequently hears from readers who write to say her work makes a difference in their lives. For many years she has mentored award-winning writers of fiction, poetry, and memoir. She is currently completing a novel, Time Out of Mind, and a collection of her poetry.

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Artwork: “Eve, Serpent, and Death” by Hans Baldung Grien, 1510. Public Domain.

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