Jezebel's got the Blues...and other works of imagination
by merrill farnsworth
I am the angel at Eden’s gate. I knew them, the man and the woman. merrill farnsworth / mixed media I knew them before they knew what God only knows. I knew them when they strolled through the garden with effortless grace, lips curved gently upward, eyes shining with morning light. Paradise was their playground and God was their friend. They fed one another grapes of impossibly purple hue and drank nectar from fragrant flowers. I knew them when they romped playfully with a lion, loved with abandon, body and soul tangled in unfettered bliss. I stood unseen at the gates of Eden, a silent witness.
I was there when the serpent knocked.
He was long and lean, leading with his belly, thinking to slide on by.
Sworn to guard the entrance to Eden, I blocked the way and ordered him gone without discussion. He smiled, lipless and dry, with no intention of leaving.
Move aside sister. Paradise is mine.
His cool stare chilled the air but when he spoke his voice was warm, delicious, golden. He both delighted and disgusted me. I felt myself carving the sweet poison of his intoxicating tone.
The all knowing God does not smite me, reject me or dismiss me. Dear angel, how could I even exist if not for God’s hand? Let me in. All God’s creatures belong in the garden.
I was tempted, but not fatally. I was without choice to be persuaded by any will but my Lord’s. I was created to guard this holy gate. I would not be moved. It was the serpent that moved, slowly and surely. He was now so close that the strange icy heat of his breath was upon my brow.
How long we stood there face to face I cannot tell you. What I will confess is that I could have stood there forever locked in the dark rapture of his topaz eyes. What I will further confess is that if God had not appeared at that moment, I might have allowed the serpent into paradise. I did not. It was God who let him in.
I was ordered to step aside as the serpent entered Paradise.
I had assumed the garden was perfect without this disturbing creature. I would have sent him away. Better yet, I would have destroyed him!
Silly Angel… don’t you know God prefers stories that are…complicated?
I watched the serpent weave silently among the trees when the moon was full. He favored a tree laden with golden fruit. The woman had eyes for this tree. She knew it was extraordinary, but was perfectly content to let it be - perfectly content until the day the serpent’s voice wrapped itself all around her.
The fruit of this tree is delicious. More delicious than anything you’ve ever tasted. It will melt on your tongue like the sweetest honey, dripping from the honeycomb.
I watched her face as she listened to his words. There came a certain light to her eyes. A certain tilt to her head.
Just reach out your hand… pluck it. It’s easy.
Remembering God did not want her near this tree, she ran. But at that moment the fruit of the tree entered her dreams and upon waking she was drawn to its branches. The serpent was there to greet her.
Just one bite. It will be our secret.
The woman, she had no concept of “secrets”… but the word, as he whispered it slowly, began to rise in her like a wave. The ground beneath her feet was no longer steady. She became confused and began wondering why, exactly why, the fruit was forbidden. As the serpent guessed her thoughts, more of his words washed over her.
Eat from this tree and you will know good from evil. You will be like God. You will see beyond the walls of Eden. Don’t you want to see? Don’t you want to know all there is to know?
She had never considered knowing all there was to know, but now, the world beyond paradise entered her imagination. I was in tragic awe of the questions that began growing in her mind, a mind sewn with the seeds of God’s own imagination.
Just take one bite…
She did. The man, he took a bite too. The fruit, sweet in the mouth of God was bitter in theirs. In an instant they hated their bodies. I saw them hiding in the tall grass as first blood spilled on the ground, blood of a creature slain to clothe their shame. I saw the serpent cursed, cast down on his belly, topaz eyes trapped in the body of a worm. To my great joy God banished this venomous tempter from the garden forever.
I know you don’t weep for me, but be melancholy Angel, for the man and the woman – they’re following me out into the big bad world. And you know why… because God said so.
So the story of the woman and the man strolling through the garden with effortless grace now ends. As they pass through the gates of Eden I see their faces reflected in the flame of God’s eyes.
They are fierce. They know sorrow. They are beautiful.
copyright merrill farnsworth
Every beginning finds an end…
…every ending finds a new beginning. This story begins outside Eden’s gates with the birth of a son…
… then another, two brothers, Cain and Abel…
…one brother ending the life of the other in a jealous rage. Feeling the sting of rejection, Cain cut into his own flesh and blood…
…killed what he loved and tried to bury the shame, but God witnessed the crime.
The story could have ended with Cain cold in the ground next to Abel, struck down for murder. Instead God sent Cain to wander the earth in search of a new beginning…
…just as we all must seek new beginnings when we kill what we love.
On his journey, Cain received The Mark, a mark to protect him from all those anxious to give him what they thought he deserved.
This Mark is for all who have killed...
Be it hope or joy
Justice or mercy
Tenderness or trust
Time or tomorrow or today
Comfort or peace
Thankfulness or rest
The yearnings of the child within
The caresses of your lover’s arms
This Mark is for all who have cut...
Your billowing sails
Before journey’s end
The blossom of a promise
Reaching towards light
The roots of your soul
The wings of your spirit
The cords of kinship
The bonds of a friendship
This Mark is for all who have murdered...
A vision, a vow, or a dream
The flight of imagination
Or the landing of love
In your heart
Your calling, your talents
The meaning of your story
Your belief in beyond
The sparkle in your eyes
This Mark is for all who have buried...
Secrets or shame
Disappointment or desire
Your kinship with the dark
Your passion for the rising of the dawn
Your laughter, your longing
Your innocence, your wonder
Your impulse to play
To sing, to fly, to dance
For all who wander in search of life and love
Take The Mark of Cain
A sign of grace to protect the prodigal
Until he finds...until she finds
copyright merrill farnsworth
I am the rat on Noah's Ark, one of two to be exact.
When me and the missus showed up, Noah’s wife looked at us as if we were getting ready to spread the plague right then and there. What made her all high and mighty? Who was she to judge whether or not we should be saved? It’s not our fault we didn’t get to be bunnies or kittens.
The day I got the call from on high, I was busy gnawing on some dead guy’s toe. It was a big toe, nice and juicy. Sorry. Noah’s been teaching us social skills so I’m aware this sort of talk is offensive. Deep breath. Just forget I mentioned it. Like I was saying, I got a message from above. This is the way I remember hearing it: World to end SOON. Get your rat’s a –natomy down to Noah’s Ark NOW. Take Mrs. Rat with you. I said to myself – that hussy? She ran off with a river rat years ago. Wasn’t sure what happened to her when all the rivers dried up. Didn’t care. Not having a current missus, I went out to find Noah on my own.
Noah was a favorite topic of conversation in that cozy little den of iniquity I called home. He’d stand outside preaching and yelling about a giant flood washing away every sinner on earth. Everyone laughed, but to my thinking those gypsies, tramps and thieves should have been at least a little worried. They were the sinniest of sinners. They lived filthy lives, which I totally supported, but if I’d made the mistake of creating them I’d want a do over.
And if I were Noah, I’d want a new wife. That woman’s high strung - goes hysterical every time she sees me. Those night crawlers back in the city didn’t flinch at the sight of my beady eyes or long pink tail. It was like they were begging me to hang out. It was like a dream…rotting food all over the floor, the stench of human misery hovering in every corner. Just thinking about it makes me homesick.
Now I’m stuck here with a crazy woman who keeps trying to scrub away stink of the place. I swear she tried to sweep me overboard. If my dear missus hadn’t pinned my tail between her pointy teeth and heaved me back on deck, I’d have been down at the bottom of the sea with all the other rats. That’s right. The missus and me are back together.
You might look at her and go – really? God called her? She curses like a sailor, something she picked up from her river rat, drinks and smokes too. She’s been forced to give up her filthy habits since coming here but I guarantee she’ll backslide the minute she gets half the chance. That’s my woman. But hey - did she even think to find me when she got the call? No. She tried talking some other loser into making the trek. Not that I thought to look for her either but at least I didn’t try to bring another rat to the party.
It really messes with my mind to think we’re the only two rats left on earth. What’s the meaning of this? The wife says don’t worry about it, but I can’t help wondering. I’m deeper than she is –more sensitive. Can you believe that after all those years apart we found each other again? There I was, following that voice I heard telling me to go find Noah and then – out of nowhere - there she was. I thought I’d want to kill her if I ever saw her again, but instead I said to myself, we’re both rats, she’s my rat, let’s do this.
Me and my second chance mama scurried our way down to the ark with all the other prancing, scuttling, waddling crew… all of us creatures climbing on board a boat with no vacancy for the folks who, by the way, quit laughing at Noah when raindrops big as jungle cats pinned them to the ground.
You can bet those people stopped laughing when it started raining. The ground was dry, bone dry, too dry to soak in all the water falling from the sky. Raging rivers sprang up in an instant, knocking people down. They clawed at each other, trying to climb into the ark. But the door slammed shut and they started sinking down.
There I was, the lowliest of creatures, rising above the rich and strong and there was Noah, the man they’d been calling a fool, looking down at them from the deck of his boat. Every man, woman and child cried out to him for mercy but mercy wasn’t up to Noah, it was up to God and God was done with these people. They’d had their chance. They’d disappointed him. Now they were sinking to the bottom of the ocean, gasping for air that was no longer theirs to breathe.
Even I, a rat, felt sorry when they saw it was over and slid silently into a dark, wet grave. At what point does the world become so wicked it deserves death? I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t wait for the rain to stop. I can’t wait to get off this damn boat. I can’t wait to get back to the business of being a rat.
Copyright Merrill Farnsworth
Every woman desires a kiss, long and hard, given to her by someone who knows every secret, every whim, every mistake she’s ever made, someone who knows everything and still loves her. I am that kiss, God’s kiss on the lips of a woman with no name.
The woman is Lot’s wife and though people know more about her husband than they want to know – for instance his sons were also his grandsons (think about it – it’s not good) all that is really known about her is that she turned to salt. Why? Gossips say she left a lover in Gomorrah and was petrified to see him go up in flames. Legalists say she disobeyed God’s command to keep her eyes on the path ahead was punished for looking back. Skeptics say that if she existed at all, she didn’t run fast enough and was trapped by lava.
But I know a secret. Lot’s wife got exactly what she wanted.
She’d always wanted to be special. She’d always wanted to be special. While her brothers and sisters were running around, mindlessly sprouting into wildflowers, cedar trees and stubborn weeds, she sat down and crowned herself “The Rose of Canaan”.
Her mother wanted her learn to weave or gather herbs, but what her mother wanted wasn’t good enough. She wanted to marry a rich man, so she seduced a man named Lot who owned a lot of livestock. Marriage was not as special as she’d expected, so she imagined giving birth to a great prophet or a future king - but no sons for her, only daughters.
One day Lot announced they were moving to the Jordan Valley. When they were captured along the way, Lot’s wife fantasized the evil, but handsome, king would take her into his harem, demanding all Lot’s livestock as ransom. The king never looked her way. Years later when the story of their capture was written down, she was listed as one of Lot’s household possessions, not as The Rose of Canaan, or by any other name. She began to feel old and invisible. Her husband and daughters seemed bored with her. She was bored with herself. Life was dull.
Then Lot brought home “the visitors”. He didn’t bother to introduce her to them. She would have liked for the guests to know her name. How long had it been since her husband, or anyone else had spoken her name? She couldn’t remember. Lot’s wife was at peace with being forgotten, but she longed for a glance from the visitors, who were so strangely beautiful that they’d attracted an unruly mob. Lot knew what the crowd wanted and shouted out,
Don’t do this wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters. You can have them, but don’t do anything to these men, for they are my guests.
Before Lot’s wife could protest, the visitors took charge. They pulled Lot back into the house and blinded the mob so they couldn’t find the door. She heard the two beautiful men speaking urgently to her husband.
Save your sons and daughters! Get them out of here because we are going to destroy this place.
No mention of saving a wife.
A hot burst of shame shot through her belly. She knew this pain - this begging to be looked at, to be entered into, this desperate desire to be known - to be loved for the selfish, shallow girl she had been, for the lost, lonely woman she’d become, a longing to be poured out of her cold shell of body into a warm embrace.
Lot’s wife sat down and waited for the end to come.
An angel came at dawn, taking her hand, forcing her to run from the house.
Another angel shouted out a warning to her husband,
“Don’t look back, for if you do, God will turn you to salt.”
And what of her? Would the God of heaven and earth bother to turn Lot’s wife into salt? Would he even notice if looked she back?
Still feeling the angel’s touch on her hand, she ran , following her husband and daughters as fire fell from heaven.
What would hurt more, she wondered, to look back and feel her body turning stone cold or to look back and feel nothing?
Lot’s wife was sick of feeling “nothing”. Suddenly the courage to risk everything opened up her heart like a perfect rose and she turned to face the fire, feeling my kiss on her lips, warm and deep as God called out her name, lifting her from the cold shell of her body into Love’s embrace.
copyright merrill farnsworth