“Echolalia” is part of one of several series in Blameless Mouth. This series traces the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis, from Eve’s perspective. What is unique about the series is that it is a crown of single and double sonnets. Echolalia is a double sonnet. I didn’t use the typical sonnet stanza lengths, so that the sonnet form wasn’t too overt.
My process for this series was, in some ways, similar to my work on my mermaid poems from earlier this year. I began this crown of sonnets from a single poem. I wrote the poem “Learning to Love the Taste of Apple,” first. This poem describes the moment when Eve eats from the Tree of Knowledge and information rushes at her all at once. Once I had that poem out, I realized that Eve had a lot more to say. Knowing this, I researched the Book of Genesis and began writing her story, in her voice, from the moment that God created the universe through Adam and Eve’s eviction from Eden.
Out of all of the poems in the series, Echolalia is my favorite. I feel it’s where I really found Eve’s voice, from the root of her frustration to her hunger for freedom from her assigned role. Once I had this poem in place, I was able to revise the rest of the poems with this emergent voice in mind.
As a side note, the word echolalia is a psychiatric term for a disorder where patients uncontrollably repeat words spoken by someone else in their presence. It also describes how a baby repeats sounds vocally until they learn to talk. I thought it a fitting title for what Eve is experiencing with Adam at this point in her life.
Please read below for the poem’s text and for the specific image credits from the video.
The blank shapes blurred before the perfect man:
a photo out of focus, a world obscured
beneath blue waves. He began to babble words,
gold light became sun, brown lines became land,
gray fluttering hearts turned into birds, now
forever after. All his Father made,
he named, erased their easy edges, traced
straight lines. Then, something new, an undertow
of need devoured him, wants he couldn’t name.
The perfect man moaned new words, words not based
in God’s idyllic world. I need this space
inside me filled. Lord, feed this empty pain.
He curled, a tight knot, rocked himself to sleep.
He dreamt of falling down holes, black and deep.
He dreamt of falling as the Lord reached deep
inside him, finding me, submerged
below his skin, awake and purple faced from no
clean air. He ripped me out of Adam, feet,
then curled arms, flattened head. Now, it’s been said
that I was made from his rib. This is wrong.
No, I was made from that initial song
of emptiness, the first words that he said
that were not names, were not repetitions
of His words. He spoke me into being,
with words of complete sorrow, freeing
his body from their weight. I was the one
made to free him, not made to be his mate.
Though, in my telling, I still came too late.
Image credits, in order of appearance:
- Postilla in Bibliam, Nicolas de Lyra Troyes
- The Downfall of Adam and Eve and their Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, (Sistine Chapel) Michaelangelo
- Brancacci Chapel detail, Masaccio
- Adam and Eve, Peter Paul Reubens
- Adam and Eve, Albrecht Durer
- The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise, Alexandre Cabanel
- Adam and Eve, Domenichino
- The Garden of Eden, Le Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry
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