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Noah’s Wife

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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
                        ground
               withers under their feet) we were told?

The woman’s disobedience is good for
                        plot,
               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.
                        In
               the beginning was nothing and then a flaw

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

to keep the prospect clean) and now the lion
                        whelps,
               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
                        understanding
               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
                        changed,
               the malady’s still the same) Who told you

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

I had to be told?

Linda Gregerson, “Noah's Wife” from Waterborne. Copyright © 2002 by Linda Gregerson. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Source: Waterborne (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 1998 issue of Poetry magazine

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Noah’s Wife

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