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The Expulsion from the Garden

The Guardian of Paradise, Franz von Stuck (1863-1928)

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.

--Katha Pollitt, b. 1949

Reader Comments (11)

Oh... I love this poem. How true on so many levels.

December 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen of A2eatwrite

Very nice. Thanks for sharing and making my brain actually think of something besides work!

December 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSydneyMin

Wow! That's about all I can think of to say--compared to Katha, anything else would just sound like so much noise in the wind. (except for that--that was actually pretty good).

December 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi Ashworth

what an intriguing view on the expulsion. wow!

December 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGoofball

I love that poem! Thank you for sharing it here!

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Wright

I've been soaking up pre-/post-Expulsion narratives lately, especially as I write my own poems based on the Adam & Eve experience. I really like this one. I've never read it before. Great way to begin the Advent---with the Fall! And especially with that darn/blessed Tree!

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Oh and that picture provides an interesting counterpoint to the work I've been doing with J. Kirk Richards' stuff, especially Cherubim and a Flaming Sword. von Stuck's Guardian may just make it's way into a poem...

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

I love introducing Advent with the Fall...they way it was meant to be understood.

At our children's private school in California, they had an Advent Garden the first Sunday in December. Each child accepted an apple with a candle in it, walked to the center of a spiral of greenery, and back out again, bearing the apple, with the candle to light the way. I always loved that little ritual as it seemed such an apt symbol of our choosing to come to earth, receiving the light of Christ, and walking by faith.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercharrette

Yes, Charrette--I modeled the structure of my Advent Calendar readings after the Anglican service of nine lessons and carols. As I'm sure you know, the first lesson is always on the Fall, the second is about the promises made to Abraham, and it isn't until the third lesson that we get to the Annunciation. I've always loved how that structure echoes what we learn in the Temple, establishing a clear need for the Savior to come into the world.

Tyler--I thought of you as I re-read all of these poems this year, especially this one, which actually reminds me of your work--and this painting reminds me a bit of Richards's work as well. Unfortunately, as I gathered poetry for this project last year, I found very little post-Eliot Christmas poetry that wasn't utter doggerel. Maybe if I ever do something like this again, I can consult with you on some better choices.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Consult away, if you ever so desire.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Correction: the Annunciation comes in the fifth lesson, not the third.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

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