Three Poems

Mother from Paradise

Listen here, women.
In the beginning, every day
honeysuckled air, sprouting snow peas,
blooming orchids,
Adam yelling out names.
The serpent handsome as a ram
big horned and strutting.
God’s voice an orchestra.

And then I plucked and bit that apple.
Adam ate too, he did anything I did back then.
God knew damn well we’d fall.
Afterwards, what a show
burning thunder, funereal wailing.
We saw our nakedness
my right breast smaller than my left
and that ugly bristle brush triangle,
Adam’s hairy buttocks.
We were supposed to be the pinnacle.

God threw us baggy clothes and said, Get out.

My belly swelled like a pumpkin.
I squatted behind the beans screaming,
while Adam got all big eyed and clumsy.

Our first boy killed the second
over a gift God didn’t like.

After that we stayed in the backyard
growing tomatoes, hot peppers and children.
Engorged cities cheated farmers, fashioned orgies.
God threw a flood, picked out one family to save,
not like us, favor-less and farming.
Adam just kept on hoeing
repeating the same old repentance.
I left him.

Oh it goes on and on
burning sulfur, golden calves.
You know the rest.

Except the parts God allowed men to skew
Like making Mary Magdalene a prostitute,
twisting Paul’s words
to make us women silent slaves,
changing the Holy Spirit from a She to a He.

I couldn’t leave you
with those bullies throwing that apple.

I am your Mother.
I stayed to midwife all your babies.
It’s not your fault your Father cursed childbirth.

You are as brilliant as the garden,
as perceptive as the roots of spring,
creator of life.

Stop listening to God’s stubble-faced cronies,
who love to hate us,
who thrust that apple between our lips
to shut us up.

Spit or swallow
but speak, dear daughter, speak

Saving Maynard

While the pastor drones on
I watch Maynard, his granite shoulders, disheveled hair.
I finger the dinosaur he carved on this pew
when he was six, his name in big awkward letters.
At sixteen he still comes because he has to,
to play church league hockey.
He sits beside his brother Darrell,
who, at dim basement parties with beer,
two-steps and tangos like a god,
a Mennonite dancing, a forbidden danger.

Maynard seldom speaks
hangs with tattooed people at places I only hear of.
Thursday nights at the arena among sharp sounds of skates
Maynard, padded and armored, a modern knight,
glides back and forth guarding his net
ready to fling sideways, kneel and slide.
His giant black gloves slap and suck the puck like a toy.

His mother watches him, worries about more than this game.

One Friday night, bored or curious,
he joins us for youth group.

Afterwards in the dark church parking lot
the dilemma: whose place to crash.
Eleven o’clock; too late to go just anywhere.
Maynard suggests his house
but we protest: What will your mom say?
Maynard throws up his hands and in a woman’s voice cries,
Hallelujah! the boy’s been saved!

So fifteen bodies squeeze into cars
drive to a farm house surrounded by evergreens.
Downstairs Maynard plays Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”;
above, in her nightgown, his mother beams,
makes lemonade, fills platters with soft cheese, summer sausage
and slices of dark bread rich as redemption.

Into Forever

Wool scarves blazing, figure eights and bunny hops, Dad kneeling in the snow, tightening my laces,

long line of boys holding hands, skating round and round, fast as Christmas, a sudden snap of arms, flinging off the last one.

Trees holding ice, the sun out but not working, the sun never works in January, in Ontario, in Elmira, on Earl’s pond.

Fields of snow like little girls all glittered up, grownups stirring hot cider, thick blankets in car trunks.

It was then you flung off too, in a red truck, in the woods, a thousand miles away.

About the Author

Cheryl Denise Cheryl Denise grew up in Elmira, Ontario. She went to the red brick Mennonite church beside the white clapboard Old Order Meetinghouse. After nursing school, she went into VS and worked as a public health nurse in La Jara, Colorado. Then she and her husband moved to Philippi, West Virginia and became leaders for the Mennonite Service Adventure program for three years. Now they live in the intentional community of Shepherds Field in a timber framed home they built when they were young and brimming with energy. They are members of Philippi Mennonite Church. Cheryl is the author of the poetry books, Fences, (2022), What’s in the Blood (2012) and I Saw God Dancing (2005), all published by Cascadia Publishing House, DreamSeeker Books, Telford, PA. She has a spoken word poetry CD, Leaving Eden (2012), with music from Ben Regier, available on Amazon. Visit her on Facebook at Cheryl Denise, poet.