Adam names the creatures
. . . And him, and him, and then
That big one there in baggy skin,
The stamper. He roars, and sends,
Three messages into the air :
Two silver slivers and a wave of dark
– See how it lifts, and bends !
I’ve seen that darkness since,
Coiled round a tree. It shines,
It rears on air, it rides
(The bending grass divides).
Its tongue goes in and out,
Testing the temperature. It twists.
How can I come by all these names ?
Never by trying.
The world’s too empty, I must make them up.
Naming’s not lying.
Don’t ask me why I do it : I was told.
‘Look,’ he said, ‘lion, tiger, dog,
Goat,’ he said, ‘spider, hog –‘
But those don’t count, he said them.
A name is what you find.
Outside ? or in your mind ?
(When Eve lies down
Her breasts are flat,
Her belly is a bowl.
She has no breasts, but petals,
Bruises of red, that’s all.
She has geraniums.)
That’s it, that’s it,
Who bit those leaves ?
Who scooped Eve’s silhouette, with one clear stroke ?
It has three breasts, it is
An in and out of yellow green,
It is a perfect curve, a woman leaf,
It is an oak.
I know them now.
The world has come to life.
I name you : elephant.
You needn’t pull your skin up, now.
You needn’t blush, stop stamping, or look pale,
Or dress in shadows :
I can see you now.
The darkness that the elephant let fall,
Twisting among the grass, I see that too.
Slanting across a tree its colours break.
Striped tree, dividing grass, I see it all.
I understand the world now :
Eve ; and God ;
And snake. I call you snake.
Laurence Lerner, Selves (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), no pagination.