Genesis by Jayanta Mahapatra

The apple sits on an old examination bed
in the world’s foyer.

The stony silence of the men staring hard
crosses the line of sanity.

Why do I think of this,
drowning in the depth of lost time?

Maybe nothing came from anything,
a long drawn-out yawn from nowhere.

Maybe my mother’s soul set the apple free,
making it roll down the road.

And I look for the same sense of stillness,
hoping it will heal me.

The myth has its head stuck in the fork of a tree.
And the spirits of knowledge won’t let it pass.


The poet deftly weaves a structure around the Christian myth relating to the ‘apple’ or the forbidden fruit in the poem ‘Genesis’.

The poet shows the difference between the nature of knowledge and the instinctive spontaneity of human being, inherited from Adam and Eve who by eating the forbidden fruit have set themselves free. In one hand the poet shows the sense of freedom, spontaneity and a sense of adventure and on the other hand a kind of closure that religious knowledge brings. The poet doesn’t make any preference. Rather he makes the ‘apple’ a symbol both of freedom, from individual point of view and perversion from religious point of view. The poet’s intention is not to point out what is right or what is wrong.

The poem is rather a site for multi layers of meanings. The poet with deconstructive spirit sets stage ready in the text for the greater exploration of knowledge. In this process he only points out that there is a ‘genesis’ of each and every set of knowledge which might undergo a change in course of time. When things go on in an endless process the boundary line between sanity and insanity gets blurred. This binary concept of sanity and insanity is something which is constructed by human beings. As the poem moves towards the second stanza, one finds the attempt of the poet to go beyond this closed construct.

The spirit of exploration becomes intense in the fifth stanza because it is Eve, who represents the mother of mankind , takes the apple, the forbidden fruit. Mahapatra shows that taking the forbidden fruit is just a beginning of the Faustian adventure. Hence, mankind itself is a delicate articulation of Eveand Adam.

‘Silence’ in the second stanza and ‘stillness’ in the sixth stanza are the symbols of infinite time.It is the time which plays a great role in Mahapatra’s poems. Time changes everything. Time glorifies everything. Ultimately it is the time which mortalizes or immortalizes everything. It is this sense of time which Mahapatra develops not only by himself but also inherits unconsciously from Orissa’s rich cultural past. The construction of Orissa as well as Mahapatra is a coincidence: Orissa is constituted of its past,present and future in the form of a vision, so also Mahapatra, his poetic mind consists of an assimilation of the past ethos of Orissa, its present self-expression and its dreams.

In the poem ‘Genesis’, the poet leads the readers , however, to a realm of myth, reality and vision and leaves upto them for analysis, even though it may not be final, which might be an ‘and’ without an ‘end’.

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