Adam, Where Are You? A Poem by Franchot Ballinger

I wasn’t long for that world.
I was treated like dirt.
OK, so I didn’t get to choose my
Name, but I’m my own man, I’ll tell you.
I got to name the filthy beasts,
Who were already there when I
Woke from that dreamless, selfless sleep
I’d been in. What a greeting they gave me—
Their snarling bared teeth, claws and hooves
Mauling the air before me.
They were something else, and I
Was more than glad to say what they were.
It was like the names kept them off.
Then she happened, sudden.
I woke from a nap (This one a dreaming-of-me
Sleep). And there she was. Now, where’d she come from?
Not something I could (or would have) dreamt up.
I got to name her too: Eve.
Prophetic, eh?
If such things as beasts and she must be,
There’s comfort in giving a name.
Still, the orders were to take her
As my flesh and bone. One,
We were supposed to be—like lichen or pondlight,
I guess—as if there were no edges to us.
What a puzzle. But, you know,
Sometimes that being one stuff wasn’t bad.
I’d wake in the morning from my dreams,
Her head on my chest,
And the light would be like a lilt in the air—
A choral radiance greeting us—and we
Smiled a lot in a certain dim-witted way.
But most often we’d stand staring at each other,
Dull as dirt, stunned as deer caught in torchlight.
She clearly wasn’t me and I wasn’t her,
Not that I cared to be. So, all in all, I for one
Was only too glad to get out. Never mind the rumors…
I chose.
During all the “he said, she said” after the trouble,
I felt something crack inside, like a flawed pot
Over-heated in all the hiss and boil of the tiff.
From then on, it was all careless looks and words
Flicked like snot from fingertips.
The light in her eyes flew off
Like a puff of milkweed down across an empty field at dusk.
I saw there was nothing
Between us but echoing air. I
Couldn’t stay, had to be free, and left in dark of night.
Damned if she didn’t follow. I
Could sense her skulking out behind me. I
Didn’t look for fear I’d get yanked back. Maybe
I should have; maybe the old evil eye
Would have sent her back. But She
Caught up, and we stumbled dumbly along.
As we still do.
Now, most days and in the long, long
Nights, we scarcely converse.
When we do our voices seem to caress themselves,
And something in them spills and spills
Like rain down denuded hills.
Is this karma, or what?

Franchot Ballinger
In retirement after nearly 40 years teaching English at the University of Cincinnati, Franchot Ballinger has continued volunteering with the Cincinnati Nature Center in various capacities and is also a spiritual care volunteer with Hospice of Cincinnati. His poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals in print and on-line.
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