The Ancient Modern

Fratricide  /  Joshua Alan Sturgill

Cain and Abel are one:
one person, one word,
one icon. They are again
that first Adam, the Adam
undivided, now divided
against itself. Cain: “dust
from the Earth” Abel:
in-breath of the Spirit.”

After the Gardenand
in each of usthe dust
rebels against the Life.
The dust rises to commit
the primordial murder
again and again
in every generation.

The blind forces, the nascent
principles of creation
reject the Person sent
to unite and give them form.
Preconscious matter expels
the constraint of consciousness;
desire rejects instruction;
growth rejects maturity.

The breath of Spirit
came to complete the dust,
to unify and ultimately
Transfigure it.

But Cain dreams
of an unrestrained, dualistic
autonomywhat he knew
before the coming of Abel.
The murderer hopes,
by murder, for freedom
from dominion, life,
and transcendence.

Fratricide revealed only

Instead of freedom, the dust
kills its own Center, its Heart,
its unifying principle,
and the Being of its being.

Cain reels from the act.
His liberation only a chain
of imbalance and exile.
He wanders; He builds a City:
shadowy attempt
to shore and restrain
his leaderless impulses,
to hold himself back
from dissolution.

God sees the Fall replayed
in every generation. In my life
and yours. And God both
attends to the cry of blood
and blesses the guilty
with a hope of return.

All poetry and supplementary material: copyright 2020 by Joshua Alan Sturgill

2 thoughts on “Fratricide

  1. Joshua, you should read Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals—read it with this poem close to the front of your mind. I never realized it until very recently, but there (and perhaps in the most perfect expression ever put to words) he spells out the very philosophy of Cain. Many times this past week, as I’ve read—for I haven’t picked him up for years—I’ve had flashes of an imagined conversation between you and I, once again in Eighth Day. Perhaps this is because you are the only person I’ve come across who could understand what I’m saying: the very philosophy of Cain.


  2. Thanks, Daniel! I’ve been sitting on some of these ideas for awhile, and Nietzsche is often a good teacher for helping us see where modern intuitions lead. I’ve never read Genealogy of Morals. I’m going to check it out this week


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