Sunday, March 6, 2011

long story by stephen dobyns.

We talked a little about Cain and Abel tonight, so I wanted to share this poem with you guys. I love it. So much. It's by Stephen Dobyns and the title of my blog might be a little bit of a rip off of the title of his poem. Oops. Here it goes.

Long Story

There must have been a moment after the expulsion
from the Garden where the animals were considering
what to do next and just who was in charge.
The bear flexed his muscles, the tiger flashed
his claws, and even the porcupine thought himself
fit to rule and showed off the knife points
of his quills. No one noticed the hairless creatures,
with neither sharp teeth, nor talons, they were too puny.
It was then Cain turned and slew his own brother
and Abel's white body lay sprawled in the black dirt
as if it had already lain cast down forever.
What followed was an instant of prophetic thought
as the trees resettled themselves, the grass
dug itself deeper into the ground and all
grew impressed by the hugeness of Cain's desire.
He must really want to be boss, said the cat.
This was the moment when the animals surrendered
the power of speech as they crept home to the bosoms
of their families, the prickly ones, the smelly ones,
the ones they hoped would never do them harm.
Who could envy Cain his hunger? Better to be circumspect
and silent. Better not to want the world too much.
Left alone with the body of his brother, Cain began
to assemble the words about what Abel had done
and what he had been forced to do in return.
It was a long story. It took his entire life
to tell it. And even then it wasn't finished.
How great language had to become to encompass
its deft evasions and sly contradictions,
its preenings and self-satisfied gloatings.
Each generation makes a contribution, hoping
to have got it right at last. The sun rises
and sets. The leaves flutter like a million
frightened hands. Confidently, we step forward
and tack a few meager phrases onto the end.


  1. wow. good true stuff. thank you for posting this.

  2. I wanted to say "wow" too, but that is quite repetitive with the last two comments. The poem made me think and I was impressed. It was good to slip away into these words for a bit. Thank you.

  3. I had planned to say "Wow" as well and then I read the other responses. But I am still left with "wow".

  4. I agree with everyone wow. lol Great poem. This reminds me of this poem I now want to find and post :) Thanks a lot for sharing! Poetry can be so helpful and fun like this.