Near 500 words: The Mother of All Living

–from the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

One of the most moving statues, for me, is “The Penitent Magdalene” by the Italian artist Donatello. With it, we get the figure of Mary Magdalene after years of wandering in the desert. It’s a statue that I love.

After spending some time gazing at pictures of it, I began to think of Eve. The Genesis story doesn’t give us much after she and Adam left the Garden of Eden. All we know is that Eve had three children.

One, Cain, murdered his younger brother, Abel. After Cain was banished to only God-knows-where, Eve and Adam had a third son. His name was Seth.

It seems to me that something is missing from that story. What was it like to leave the comfort and security of the Garden of Eden and spend their years wandering in a world that was so large and people-less? I began to imagine those two wandering souls and their regret for losing Eden. How they must have felt being cut off from God. The depth of their homesickness. Especially Eve, who gets the brunt of the blame for their banishment.

As I thought about the story, I remembered Psalm 137. This particular Psalm was written while the Jews were exiled in Babylon. It begins, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The Psalmist was speaking for anyone who has been forced from their homeland and cannot return.It’s the story of the African slaves. It’s the story of the Jewish, the Armenian and the Irish diaspora. It’s the story of the Syrian refugees and refugees everywhere.

So I wrote this poem.

“My heart is breaking,” 
Eve told the Earth. 
Then Eve scribbled the words
with the ink of her tears

into the dirt upon the Earth’s back. 
“My son murdered my son, 
and the murderer is a ghost 
haunting the valleys 
and the mountains.” 

Eve sat by a tree 
mourning her first born, 
mourning her second child, 
the blues in her eyes shedding  
seven hundred seventy-seven tears each day  
‘tween the sunrise and the moon. 
“Tree, my heart is bleeding,” 
she sang, her grief rising 
like smoke up to the ears of God. 

Eve went down  
to the church by the river Cry. 
She lit a votive candle 
and prayed the rosary 
one hundred and fifty times 
for the souls of her sons,

one whose life was taken away, 
one who took the life
and a third,
a new beginning. 

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