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Adam’s Task

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And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field ... GEN. 2:20

Thou, paw-paw-paw; thou, glurd; thou, spotted
   Glurd; thou, whitestap, lurching through   
The high-grown brush; thou, pliant-footed,
   Implex; thou, awagabu.

Every burrower, each flier
   Came for the name he had to give:   
Gay, first work, ever to be prior,   
   Not yet sunk to primitive.

Thou, verdle; thou, McFleery’s pomma;
   Thou; thou; thou—three types of grawl;   
Thou, flisket; thou, kabasch; thou, comma-
   Eared mashawk; thou, all; thou, all.

Were, in a fire of becoming,
   Laboring to be burned away,
Then work, half-measuring, half-humming,   
   Would be as serious as play.

Thou, pambler; thou, rivarn; thou, greater   
   Wherret, and thou, lesser one;
Thou, sproal; thou, zant; thou, lily-eater.   
   Naming’s over. Day is done.

John Hollander, “Adam’s Task” from Selected Poetry. Copyright © 1993 by John Hollander. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: Selected Poetry (1993)
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Adam’s Task

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