Audio: Read by the author.
In the virgin’s garden a ladder is kept
for angels to step up & down.
It’s quiet. A plague in reverse.
No quicksand’s yet crept under the fence—
the angels don’t ramble or discurse.
They arrive & depart on time.
In the virgin’s garden each clod is turquoise.
No weathervane to abrade the skies; the weather’s
always perfect to rehearse
subtle possibilities. The many unborn in the one.
In a rush of flattery the serpent tells her
Adam’s still asleep. Seraphim wave palm fronds & sunbeams.
Soon the wilting orchid will open to the soft rot of smell
& Cain will appear.
Anxious, Eve sends ships to plead
beggar ships that collapse in their bones at his shin.
Sleepwalking to the beach
her robes give birth to marble.
Here at the edge
she wakes long enough to whisper
“It’s only a dream” & lets herself fall.
Her temperate zones breathe exaggeration.
She cages the stars with poplars
& forgets them (trapped there)
for the pinks in the water.
Drowning the sea with snakes
she bites the apple hoping, believing
this will be her last mistake.
Suddenly Adam awakes. His name has been called.
Framed in a light bulb, new colors emerge.
It’s the temperature. Maybe the walls.
Bruised fruit, crinkled leaf—whole kingdoms hatched in red—
the angelic trumpet falls from his ear
the longitude of greatest splendor dissolves in a blotch.
Only the regrettable If
knows where the fool goes in the tarot deck
survives the intestines of cause & effect.
“Because is everywhere,” sighs God.
Again Adam stands before the inevitable gates
with a desert, a fatal face.
“Where are You?” echoes “Who’s asking?”
The wheel is on fire & creation, insistent, awaits.
Overhead the angels watched themselves fly—
only feathers over thin voices, they pointed & whispered.
Each time one dove for a closer look
Adam called out a name till he finally named them all.
Common as sparrows twittering at the dawn
they covered the ground
regretting their labor in the mines of our moon
digging for the fool’s gold of redemption.
_____ In murky water grown with hair
_____ he was shown long ears
_____ & a donkey tail.
_____ Envious of his immortal frame
_____ the angels intoxicated Adam
_____ with reflection & shame.
gravitate to the mean—
drawn & quartered, cooking in your sauce.
Working at cross purposes, ill tempered
hostile to your aims…
Complain if you will
that you were pulled from a magician’s hat
his the trump card.
Convince yourself there’s better yet.
The garlics are sweeter ahead—
you’ll praise them with your pen.
Even the cicadas can’t sing as beautifully, as pure
as the skies demolishing the arguments of Cain.
Adam had no trouble naming the dog—
tongue hanging over his teeth, saliva dripping from his jaw.
Much as Adam dug for God’s bones
the sentimental dog digs for Adam’s bones.
Acquaints himself with metaphysics
at the butcher’s window, plucked chickens, fresh killed.
These he studies to know their crime.
Though he can differentiate
between closely related shades of gray
answers evade the dog.
He rearranges his thoughts the way women rearrange furniture
but nothing makes sense.
He’s comforted that his master understands.
He imagines that his master’s catechism is his.
Marty Newman is a student of archaeology, history, and kabbala. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1948, raised in Montreal, and educated at McGill University, he moved to Jerusalem in 1985 to study source texts in their original languages. The modern poets who influence him most are Zbigniew Herbert and Richard Wilbur.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.