11 days left in 2017, 11 tracks on my 2017 CD, "A Message in the Mess." Follow this free, song-a-day countdown. CD available on itunes, spotify and this site.
I was barely 14 when I read the poem, “Eve Speaks” by Louis Untermeyer.in freshman English. I was in awe: Here was Eve talking back to God while she’s being kicked out of the Garden. I think wanna-be-rebel-teenage-me liked that bit. The balls on her!
Like the legend it retells, this piece was an apple that awakened me to things that felt incredibly subversive. Whether it was the sensual description of Adam through a female gaze or her defiance …. It’s seed took many years to mature in me. As a grown woman, it was the poem’s second half that spoke to me:
“God, thou did'st make a creature out of dust,
But I created Man. . . . I was to him
A breast, soft shoulders, an impelling brain;
I was his spur, his shield, his stirrup-cup;
I was his child, his strumpet, and his wife.
A world of women have I been to him,
To him and all the myriad sons of Adam.
And all that they remember is my shame!
All times by all men have I been betrayed--
They have belittled and disgraced my deed
That made them seek until they found themselves.”
A fairly staggering work of feminism to have been written and published by a man in 1916. That idea – Eve as the disgraced promethean teacher, denounced by the very men she granted their godhood – became a thorn in the back of my collegiate mind. Don’t we like what she gave us? Would we really want to be different? Dumber? These were the simple questions pricked forth by my early readings of the blurred purple printed Xerox copy I still have at 37.
Flash forward to my late 20s/early 30s. I am struggling with my relationships. They love me, but they do not love my depression. They wish the fount of it coming from my mouth could become more of a trickle. Frankly, I do, too.
“All my soft heart never came to any good/ and I can’t find a blue-eyed boy
to love me like he should.”
“Is my heart keeping you awake?/ You prefer my lips a dam and not a garden gate.”
I began to experience the other thing Eve was getting at, the knowledge I had to ripen into: That men who loved me also kind of hated me.
They hated that I could drive them crazy. That I could make them feel less powerful when they could not help me shut down my fears. They broke their love for me against the rock of my despair, and they were insulted.
“God, please make me a stone/ I don’t want to feel anything anymore”
It was some time after when I realized how much men who didn’t love me, who didn’t even know me, could hate me. Because I didn’t want to bear children … Because I had hair where they didn’t think it should be, or too short where they thought it should be longer - Called a dyke over a parking space … Because I pounded out my passion with my bare hands on an African drum - “You play that drum really angry,” he said. “When was the last time you got laid?” … Called a whore – meanwhile persistently reminded “but it’s the thirddate.”
Why do we hate women so much ... still? God wanted us to eat from the tree, or knew nothing of the very human beings he made. Eve brought us closer to God in many ways, and we hate her for it. Maybe it’s because when we are self aware, we see our weaknesses. And that sucks. Her punishment was a legacy of pain ... but it did not take from her the power expressed in that pain. And so it is with all women, frightening, inscrutable creators we are … even when we choose NOT to create. In those ways, so like God.
The bridge of a song is often the ah-ha moment. In my songs, they are typically a place where the narrator makes a choice, sees the “strings” leading to the hands at work and takes ownership. I was not ashamed of Eve’s legacy. I was not ashamed of my choices. So when we recorded the bridge of “Even Now,” I was inspired by some of the more rockin’ Patty Griffin recordings, particularly the feminist anthem, “Change.”
“A woman drove you from the garden/ that’s how a woman made you great
What would you be if not for me/ the very woman that you hate?
And I have born my punishment/ and I have earned a better fate...”
My songs are almost always aspirational. By that … I mean I write them before I completely believe them. Before I think I’m quite up to their task. I hope to embody Untermeyer’s opening line and my closing line, meeting God “unafraid.”
See, I repeat the line, sung a little differently. Because I don’t bet for one second that Eve – sure as she spoke – wasn’t afraid. Defiant, perhaps, but still afraid. As women are even now.