Monday, October 17, 2005

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #11

Denise Levertov was an extraordinary voice in modern American poetry. An adult convert to Christianity, her spiritually-charged poetry is at its most powerful when musing on the wonders of the natural world, and the mysteries of faith. Her take on the oldest story in the book (literally) -- that of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden -- is fresh, insightful and wise. She reminds us of the profound truth that things are not as they were meant to be, that we are drunk on ourselves... and that, despite all this, there is still hope for us. Intriguing title too, is it not?



The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That's why the taste of it
drove us from Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
We stuffed our mouths full of it,
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
It's toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise.
Not that God is unreasonable – but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of that mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn't
quite touch ground, manages still
to squeeze in – as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, then heard again.

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