The Man and the Woman

Michael Peach

The man and the woman lay back to back in bed.
He had been called by her a conceited swine,
She, in return, by him a feminist bitch.
At length the two of them fell fast asleep;
And the man dreamt his naked wife arose
And, torch in hand, descended unknown stairs.
Without delay he grabbed his dressing gown
(A black Chinese robe he admired a lot),
Then followed her down to a tunnel made of stone,
Yelling: "You could have worn some underwear!"
Soon he discerned he was wading through cold water.
"A sewer!" he groaned. Yet on he trudged, now up
Towards a shaft of light diffused by mist,
Which, to his great relief, transpired to be
The mouth of a cave, and the water thus a stream.
"Wait!" he commanded his hasty wife. Too late:
She had passed through the hole and disappeared.
As he hurdled the fount within the cavern’s porch,
A brilliant frog leapt from the bubbling water
Into the luscious grass that stood without –
Which did, indeed, the man himself forthwith,
His eyes in wonder feasting on the scene:
A garden none other than Paradise.

"So take off that thing!" said his wife on greeting him.
"You wear it," breathed he, glancing here and there.
"Don’t be a prude!" she laughed. "We’re all alone.
For once in your life be natural. Like me."
"I feel we’re being watched," he uttered low,
Then hid the gown beneath a gooseberry bush.
Almost immediately he forgot his shame.
"You see this maligned plant?" he said with glee,
Kneeling before a rank and lurid toadstool.
"Fools think it’s solely poisonous, causing death;
But I know better. Used correctly, the juice
Can cure chorea, phthisis and cataracts.
Now view the snowy Upright Virgin’s Bower,
Or Clematis flammula, draped around this tree.
Smell its deliciously fragrant star-shaped blooms,
Which remind one of how vanilla or almonds taste,
And hear that honey made from its nectar kills.
"In short," he concluded with a subtle smile,
"The concepts good and bad are relative
To human knowledge, health, and consciousness –
Itself the child of differentiation.
The tree beneath, however, I do not know,"
He added frankly after a puzzled pause.
"Its fruit is beautiful and smells most sweet;
Such fair, inviting food is always good!"
He cried, unable to avert his gaze.
"Remember this fatal Clematis!" said she.
"Of fruit I know but berries that poison us,"
He snapped, already reaching out a hand.

"You’re right," affirmed a voice from behind the tree.
The man and the woman shrank back in surprise,
Then froze, as if transfixed, with mouths agape.
A glowing angel with golden wings and hair
Appeared before them in majestic pose.
"This food," he declared, "will turn you into gods;
Like the Boss above, you’ll transcend good and evil."
"Well," thought the man, if the fruit will make me strong
And handsome as this youth, I’ll gladly eat."
"Not so fast!" boomed out a breathless voice nearby.
They spun around and saw a second angel,
Who sword in hand was charging at the first.
Yet, far from standing ground, the latter fled –
Much to the man’s disgust. "My name is Michael,"
The victor said, "and his was Lucifer.
Hear this! For creatures in the ‘fallen’ state,
When conscience fails to usher consciousness
The ego is diverted by deceit;
To those divorced from God nor ‘good and bad’
Nor ‘right and wrong’ nor ‘light and dark’ pertain
But, as that fiend acknowledged, ‘good and evil‘.
If you had eaten this fruit, O foolish friend,
You would have hurt your wife as well as yourself."
He paused,then smiling broadly addressed them both:
"I do believe you wish to change your ways;
So let me crown you King and Queen of Earth.
Before you return there, though, you should retire
To the very bower you used the first time round
And will use again when your mortal bodies die;
For now your hatred has given way to love."

With that the man woke up, and found himself
Inside his wife. "My dove," she gently said,
"I had a dream. To Paradise we went,
And saw that God’s beyond all opposites,
Including sex. It’s good to be but clay!"

10 November 1994

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