“Eve and the Archangel in Paradise”
Tia Ballantine ~ Author/Poet
She Falls to Wander III. Love stripped Bare & the Bones of War.
The Archangel learns Eve is becoming Woman, tentatively finding her way, accepting roses, listening to the world. He returns to nip her roses in the bud by tempting her with all she doesn’t understand. He tells her he loves her and then disappears. Eve goes to work at a strip joint downtown with a bright-lit sign promising LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! She’s nonplussed when the Archangel appears one night but is confused when he ignores her, offers his full attention to a dancer on the stage. Trying to make sense of love and war, she discovers ancient wisdom (Thoth) and books that might explain the density of the conflict around her.
When the Archangel learns of the roses,
he’s pissed. Word thieves sure don’t deserve bouquets –
even if they give the pilfered words away.
Eve’s asleep when he comes knocking, posing
as a man in need of conversation.
He tells her he loves her. Eve doesn’t know
what he means but feels warm. His round tones hold
her, keep her sorting words. She finds patience
inside his breathing, joy escaping hands.
He moves beyond her, comes back slow. She floats
out long, falls to wander. When she hits ground
skin mixes blue. Wings surround her. She’s cloud,
he’s steam. He turns, says nothing and is gone,
leaving behind curbed light where he once stood.
He’s gone. Eve finds work sorting trash. Boring!
she thinks, applies at the Pussy Cat Lounge,
a strip joint behind a warehouse downtown.
A neon sign promises LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!
Not much to the place. Just glitz. No glory,
At four, a man arrives, slumps near windows.
At nine, he yells, Cover up! Put on clothes!
By twelve-thirty, he’s dead drunk and snoring.
One of the girls (Misti) lays a rose near
his mouth. When Eve wakes him at 3:30,
he sees the rose and cries, Oh, my baby!
I counted our fingers, our toes, your ears.
Eve signs a question to Misti, THAT YOUR DAD?
She never heard anyone laugh so hard.
Music keeps Eve going, night after night.
One night, after midnight, the Archangel
(what a surprise) waltzes into the bar
and orders a Pisco sour. (No light
on his wings). She serves him two. (Not a word).
When Aphrodite takes the stage, he grows
agitated. When her seaweed fan slows
above her painted breasts, his body jerks.
She steps carefully from the pink clamshell
into a blue-lit pool, then flicks water
onto his lips. He melts. He tries harder
to sit still but can’t. This water nymph tells him
stories he can’t refuse. By three,
he wades into her pool up to his knees.
Needing to close the bar, Eve flips the light
but the Archangel is mesmerized. He
locks his hands to Aphrodite’s breasts. She
touches his wings and a breeze perfumes the night.
The water nymph rubs against his chest but
then glues both hands to his backside. When he
shifts his weight onto her hips and breathes, she
tells him no one touches her gratis and
if he tries it (so help me god) she’ll make
him pay (she keeps her eye on Eve). She frowns,
puts her painted breast inches from his mouth
(her hand stays on his chest). She plays for high stakes,
this water nymph who cares nothing for hearts.
Eve turns off the music and makes a chart.
What works but doesn’t, can’t: red wine, pink tassels,
roses, sugar daddies. All lies. Eve throws
a bottle at the wall and whiskey flows
to gutters. It’s such a fucking hassle
to keep smiling night after night. She needs
a way out. If she hears one more story
about destiny, she’ll puke. Yup. Roaring
drunk right now, she’s ready to disagree
with hep cats who boogie down with angels.
She could spit. Life shouldn’t be so damn hard.
Once she sat under trees heavy with fruit,
picked extravagant bouquets for strangers.
She wishes someone else might speak.
For a change, it happens: Thoth visits Eve.
Scribe to the gods, inventor of numbers,
marker of time, Thoth records and tallies
the weight of hearts. Originally,
he was a moon. On dark nights, Eve wonders
if he’s still out there. Tonight she’s disturbed.
Every little thing bugs her. Light competes
with noise, the waste of neighbors’ loud TVs.
She listens as words round out to thunder:
Friends come and friends go. Mostly they just go.
Eve wants him to stay. On the street below,
three couples dance to Mississippi blues:
Goin’ up river, won’ be back real soon.
Rest, he says, pointing to the sky. Pain runs
behind her eyes. She looks up and finds the moon.
Just before dawn, Eve staggers home to sleep
but can’t. She sits upright in an old chair,
both hands flat on bare wood. Rain and salt air
press through window screens. She chokes if she breathes.
Is this then what happens in the endtimes?
No one speaks in future tense. It’s all lies.
Staring past red to green, Eve fights
against a rush of wings, hears night unwind.
Tomorrow the rent is due. Everything’s owned
here: women, men, trees. Even water
and the air she breathes. The sky grows lighter.
Still no sleep. Clouds spit snake teeth, bright-lit sounds
that attach to books stacked against the wall.
Which book can map out paths away from WAR?
The first book Eve reads is Savage Beauty,
an account of deep life lived at high speed.
She’s conscious of scent: rain on hot concrete,
privet hedges in bloom and toast burning.
(A man on the radio screams about fear.)
She reads again: . . . the heart is slow to learn
what the swift mind beholds at every turn.
An odd pop-pop-pop below, but she’s safe here,
swimming in words. Might be she’s just floating
high above golden roofs of engineered
pagodas anchored to Mekong mud, freed
at last from war. Peeling an apple, she
puts down the biography of Millay,
picks up the diary of Dao Dua.
When US soldiers (scared young men) deploy
to jungles, Dao Dua rewrote power
as circles, as shelter. He walked from tower
to tower. First SAIGON, second HANOI.
He refused guns, readmitted the void.
Soldiers turned away from war, gave up guns,
walked with the coconut monk, made a choice
to act as guardians of peace and joy.
They gathered up fallen fruits, forgotten
phrases. Offered wing words and tongues to birds.
At war’s end, arcs from circles were buried
in dry fields, rotting centers fixed on charts.
When war starts up again, Eve wonders how
many more circles these monks need to walk.
Limited edition printing 2012, Peralta Press.
This is one of the longest poetic pieces I have posted to date. Normally, such length tends to be unwieldy, yet there are times when such a piece deserves to be seen, and read. I believe this to be one of those pieces. Tia Ballantine has written poetry over a long span of time, with her work in various publications and collections. This piece deals with deeply rooted archetypical instincts and proclivities of human nature. The more the piece is read the deeper the understanding of her lines of prose. I say prose, being that although her structure is in an Iambic Pentameter meter, with the five feet per line, the words themselves connect in a flowing nature as if reading prose. But that's just me. The reader will decide what it is for them. Enjoy.