(August 5, 1950 / Illinois)

Noah's Wife

is doing her usual for comic relief.
She doesn’t
see why she should get on the boat, etc.,

etc., while life as we know it hangs by a thread.
Even God
has had one or two great deadpan lines:

Who told you (this was back at the start—
the teeth
of the tautology had just snapped shut) Who

told you you were naked? The world
was so new
that death hadn’t been till this minute

required. What makes you think (the
withers under their feet) we were told?
The woman’s disobedience is good for
as also for restoring plot to human

scale: three hundred cubits by fifty
by what?
What’s that in inches exactly? Whereas

all obstinate wife is common coin.
the beginning was nothing and then a flaw

in the nothing, a sort of mistake that amplified, the
mistranscribed (it takes such discipline

to keep the prospect clean) and now the lion
the beetle rolls its ball of dung, and Noah

with no more than a primitive double-
entry audit
is supposed to make it right.

We find the Creator in an awkward bind.
Washed back
to oblivion? Think again. The housewife

at her laundry tub has got a better grip.
Which may
be why we’ve tried to find her laughable,

she’s such an unhappy reminder of what
costs. Ask the boy who cannot, though

God know’s he’s tried, he swears
each bar
of melting soap will be his last, who cannot

turn the water off when once he’s turned it on.
His hands
are raw. His body seems like filth to him.

Who told you (the pharmacopoeia has
the malady’s still the same) Who told you

you were food for worms?
makes you think (the furrow, the fruit)

I had to be told?

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