Poet's Choice By Katha Pollitt

By Katha Pollitt
Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Garden of Eden -- a nice place to visit, perhaps, but would you have wanted to live there? Wouldn't it have been a little boring? No conflict, no surprise, no urgency, no change, no needs. In my poem, everyone is glad to be rid of Paradise, so timeless and static and perfect. Now, Adam and Eve will get to have complex, difficult relations full of blame and seduction, like real men and women; the animals will be real animals, alien beings in nature, not our toys and servants; and God, who exists outside of time, will enjoy himself watching human beings spin out their endless tragicomic story. As Milton says of his Adam and Eve at the end of "Paradise Lost," "The world was all before them."

Will they mess it up? Probably.

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The Expulsion

Adam was happy -- now he had someone to blame

for everything: shipwrecks, Troy,

the gray face in the mirror.


Eve was happy -- now he would always need her.

She walked on boldly, swaying her beautiful hips.


The serpent admired his emerald coat,

the Angel burst into flames

(he'd never approved of them, and he was right).


Even God was secretly pleased: Let

History begin!


The dog had no regrets, trotting by Adam's side

self-importantly, glad to be rid


of the lion, the toad, the basilisk, the white-footed mouse,

who were also happy and forgot their names immediately.


Only the Tree of Knowledge stood forlorn,

its small hard bitter crab apples


glinting high up, in a twilight of black leaves.

How pleasant it had been, how unexpected


to have been, however briefly,

the center of attention.

From "The Mind-Body Problem," by Katha Pollitt, to be published on June 16 by Random House.

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