THE BOOK OF LIFE

And the woman said unto the serpent,
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden,
God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat it, lest ye die.’”

And the woman had enough sense to ignore the serpent
when he said, “Ye shall not surely die…ye shall be as
gods, knowing good and evil.” She avoided eating
the fruit from the tree like the plague.

Instead, she spent her free time reading from
the book of life. Anonymously written,
the first and only chapter started out “In the beginning…”
followed by the serpent's interruption in which he

cataloged the material world surrounding Eve.
Beginning with the tree in the garden, he described
the branches that spread forth from the tree—
their color, density, texture, the leaves at their tips,

the veins in the leaves, the moisture within the veins,
the dew perspiring through the pores
and always with qualifications, amendments,
these descriptions went on endlessly.

The woman concentrated with such fervor
that she became unaware of the passage of time;
she became unaware of her own consciousness
as separate from the serpent or the tree or the sun.

At these times she was not thinking about the mechanics
of seeing the word symbols and translating them into images.
The words dissolved; eons passed; time conflated.
One hundred years felt like one second or a fraction of one

or ever increasingly smaller fractions of one
descending down Alice’s tunnel or swirling like
one of those spinning tops with a coil painted on.
We forget she had no need to eat, have sex,

exercise, or raise children. Well, she did eat the fruit,
I’m sorry to say. My theory is that she simply forgot,
that it had been so long since she had spoken to the serpent,
that she lost the ability to distinguish between herself

and her surroundings. She was so unaware of her body
that she ate the fruit of the tree without knowing whether
she was reading or eating, without knowing
whether she was Eve, the serpent, the sun, or the dew.

Her eating was indistinguishable from her reading.
How could the book contain a narrative?
How could it contain a sinful act? Why would
she ever leave her perpetual waking dream?

Imagine her surprise when the Lord God said unto her,
“What is this that thou hast done?”

From Wisconsin Review

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